If you have to ask about morale, it’s probably not good

“So how is staff morale?” the meeting leader asked. The response, silence. Eventually a few directors mentioned areas outside of their own that were concerned, but these were offered up as a way to break the silence. The leader took that to mean that everything was great with everyone in the meeting. He missed the opportunity to improve work environment and to help staff to adjust to large changes looming on the horizon for the organization.

Silence is not the response you want when asking about how your employees are faring. It could mean that they are avoiding the uncomfortable topic of how unhappy their employees really are with the current environment. It could mean that they see the futile nature of discussing morale when there is little that can be done. Or it could also mean they are also experiencing low morale and don’t want to admit it. All of these reasons for not speaking up still point to the pink elephant in the room, staff are very unhappy.

At the point of silence, things have gotten pretty bad. Here are some signs or tells the leader may have missed on the road to low staff morale:

Morale of leadership: If the leaders of the organization are unhappy, this generally trickles down to staff. A leader must ask herself whether or not she is happy in the organization and whether the work environment is positive. If the answer is no, it’s likely your employees feel the same way.

They only say yes: While every ego enjoys a chorus of “GREAT idea boss”, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for staff morale. Confident staff aren’t afraid to question your ideas or add to them. Yes men say yes to your face and go and grumble about leadership decisions behind your back.

Staff don’t volunteer: When your go-getters in the organization stop raising their hands to help with the next big project, then something has happened to discourage that employee. They are either burnt out or discouraged, and a strong leader will want to find the cause.

Changes are happening: Leaders need to anticipate that big changes create stress for employees. Lack of communication increases this anxiety and fuels office gossip. The more leaders can get ahead of this gossip and provide information and project confidence, the less these changes will cause long lasting morale issues or create a culture where poor employee morale is norm.