We’ve all felt it.

Managers and employees alike.

It might be hard to put your finger on it, but low employee morale in the workplace is palpable.

Maybe it’s during a busy season or after layoffs–or maybe your company is doing a crappy job keeping your department motivated and fulfilled.

Whether you are a new manager or not, morale is definitely something that you need to address.

But before it can be improved, it is essential to understand what influences it. Then, utilize these tips on how great managers combat low employee morale.

First, What Does It Mean to Have Low Employee Morale?

Simply put, morale is the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person.

The problem with that?

It isn’t always simple to understand workplace morale because there is no universal metric or measurement tool.

Still, as a manager, you are in a unique position to spot low employee morale.

If workers are unusually negative, disengaged, frustrated, and slow or unwilling to participate, you have a morale problem. If morale sinks low enough, you will also notice an uptick in the number of people who call off work unexpectedly or leave for what they perceive to be greener pastures.

Why Is Morale Important in the Workplace?

Morale matters. There’s no way around it.

Low morale can contribute to everything from low productivity to high turnover rates.

While some people might think that low morale happens “behind closed doors”, customers, clients, partners–everybody can sense when employees are dissatisfied. Once that morale spills into the open, your seemingly not-very-important morale problem has shifted into public image problem.

(And that’s how managers lose their jobs)

Good news though.

High morale also permeates every aspect of a company.

Employees are more satisfied and productive, and the workplace feels more energetic and engaging. This positive workplace culture bubbles over into interactions with customers and clients, and the public can’t help but notice and share in that enthusiasm.

What are the causes of low employee morale in the workplace?

The root causes of low employee morale vary and can be hard to pinpoint.

Sometimes, morale suffers when employee personalities clash or tensions between employees are left unresolved. Other times, morale sinks when people feel micromanaged. If management leans too far toward the other end of the spectrum, employees are left feeling directionless.

Usually, low morale is the confluence of several of these factors that have gone unresolved for long stretches of time.

How can great managers combat low employee morale?

The bad news is that management usually plays some role in low morale. The good news is that you are a dedicated manager determined to do something about it. Combing through these strategies for how great managers combat low employee morale and setting up an implementation plan is an important starting point.

Make morale a priority. If you aren’t focused on morale, there’s a good chance it’s plummeting. Great managers should keep workplace morale at the forefront of their vision, their planning, and their minds. Even when morale is high, it is important to keep a pulse on the work environment by noting any increases in negativity or absenteeism.

Show your respect.

Everyone wants to be treated respectfully. That’s not to say that problems need to be addressed with kid gloves. Instead, managers should be proactive in anticipating issues. Should problems arise, it is important to address them head-on and in a straightforward manner.

challenge employees
(even though I might not act like it)

Keep people challenged.

We tend to talk a lot about job satisfaction in terms of dollars and cents. But other hallmarks of satisfied employees might surprise you.

Everyone wants to feel challenged and productive. We spend the majority of our waking hours at work; no one wants to feel that is wasted time. Instead, find ways to foster creativity and encourage employees to take unique approaches to problem-solving. Workplaces that prioritize growth and development reap the benefits of higher employee satisfaction and retention.

Stay future-focused.

Just like no one wants to feel that their day-to-day time is wasted, NOBODY wants to look back on one, two, or even five years of their career and feel that their opportunities stalled.

Frequent meetings with employees to build rapport and develop a sense of what their aspirations are is key. If employees don’t feel that upward mobility is a possibility, they are likely to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Offer incentives.

This isn’t only about money.

If you aren’t in a position to offer bonuses or raises, fear not.

From bagels at breakfast and raffles around the holidays to dress-down Fridays or public recognition, even if you can’t boost their pay. As a manager, no one knows the climate of your team better than you, so make sure that whatever incentive you choose is helpful, not hokey.

Final Thoughts on Low Morale

Low morale affects everyone—employees, customers, and clients.

As a leader in the workplace, employees will look to you to set the workplace atmosphere. If anyone can boost morale, its a team’s manager. From finding ways to sincerely and respectfully address issues and recognize your staff to staying focused on the future and making work challenging, these strategies can make an immediate and last-lasting impact.

Once you’ve boosted morale, keep at it. It’s a constant and continuous process, much like filling your car with gasoline.

It’s a tricky problem to stay on top of–but great managers realize it’s vital they DO stay on top of it.

Morale matters too much to be left to chance.

Related reading: 15 Military Leadership Quotes to Make You a Better Manager