Top 10 Morale Busters and How to Improve Team Culture

bald latin business man over worked holding a help sign

It can be the glue that holds people together, but it can also be the venom that tears an organization apart.   Good Morale has been defined as the “emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition, adversity, or hardship.”

But poor morale can lead to a workforce that is disconnected, cynical, and discouraged.

Just as “attitude reflects leadership,” though, it is a leader’s job also to create an ENVIRONMENT that promotes good morale. 

Ultimately, morale and enthusiasm is the responsibility of every individual… but it is important for all leaders to be aware of the things that contribute to poor morale in an organization, so he or she can do everything possible to provide the necessary ingredients to produce a positive and productive team culture.

In 2004, the National Institute of Ethics, using a confidential survey, solicited the input of over 2,500 state employees from over 500 agencies in 23 different states. 

The top ten results of those “morale busters” surveys, which asked participants to rate the causes and contributors of poor morale in their workplace culture, are listed here:

1. Administration plays favoritism 2.79

2. Staffing levels are low 2.70

3. Motivation and morale is bad 2.63

4. Communication is very poor 2.57

5. Administration is “out of touch” 2.54

6. Administration does not support us 2.49

7. Discipline is unfair and inconsistent 2.46

8. Fellow employees have bad attitudes 2.44

9. Accountability is unfair or inconsistent 2.29

10. Employees aren’t listened to 2.29

Clearly, this list of morale busters offers the insight that most poor morale is owed to behaviors initiated by leadership.  Unfair treatment or rewards, poor communication, and inconsistent or unrealistic expectations are far too commonly found in groups that suffer from poor morale.

So, to create the soil that will promote the growth of good morale, YOU must ensure that these issues are not endured or perceived by people in your organization.

The lack of knowledge by leadership of front-line frustrations is often a large part of the problem – You can only address issues that you are aware of, and that requires the front line to share their true perspectives and feelings.

It is like when your wife gets upset and you aren’t sure why.  You know something is wrong, but simply asking “What’s wrong?” will often only draw out a prickly response  of “NOTHING…”

It is your job as the leader of your team to just keep on asking – with surveys, suggestion boxes, committees, and personal interviews until, finally, you learn what is the issues in YOUR organization are!

THEN, you must follow through with consistency of actions / expectations

To avoid poor morale, an organization must promote a culture of CHEER:

C H E E R =




Instead of micro-managing others and clipping the wings of their initiative, begin the next season or project by providing a clear goal that demands theCommitment of all involved.

Then, once you establish the clarity of a shared and inspiring vision, you must define your expectations.  Set them high, but publish them and make sure that everyone knows the way their performance will be measured.  These High Expectations should focus on process goals instead of only the end result.

Finally, remind yourself that ALL success is built on the foundation of relationships.  It is a poor manager that berates and criticizes consistently.   Encouraging Relationships refers not only to making supportive comments, but also to trusting your people to do what they were brought into the organization to do.  This piece of the puzzle refers to the rewards and recognition that their performance has earned, and requires your unbiased application of consequences – both positive and negative – so that you reward what you want repeated…


Remember that whether good or poor, morale starts with you!

Ask your people to submit their ideas and opinion on what can be done to improve morale.  Some responses will not require any action at all, but if you see a consistent thread of comments on one topic you may be able to address it.

Once you have a vision for all to commit to, give them the tools and the trust the need to meet your clearly defined set of expectations – and then build a relationship by encouraging and supporting them along the way.   The more you know about their problems and passions, the more you can help spread the CHEER of good morale throughout your organizations culture!

If your team is underachieving, or if you feel your program’s culture needs a boost of energy, trust, morale, or team motivation – please also consider the benefits of a business team building event…

and enjoy daily insights and information when you follow Sean on Twitter!