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6 Warning Signs of Bad Employee Morale

For however much we all might hate Mondays, nobody likes a Garfield, either. 

Your feelings on cats or the twentieth president of the United States aside, what we mean is that nobody likes to work in an office full of grumps. 

And we’ve got the data to back it up: according to a poll of over 20,000 employees, HRDrive discovered that the number one least tolerable trait among coworkers is a “negative personality.” Among the other bad traits were “‘poor work ethic,’ ‘entitled or arrogant,’ ‘takes credit for others’ work,’ and ‘disorganized and late.’”

So if coworkers hate it, imagine what pain it would cause to the manager of that sort of employee? It’s not something you would wish upon even your fiercest competitor. 

Not only is it a drag to be around, low employee engagement is just straight up bad for business. You’ll see higher turnover rates, decreased performance across the board, and you’ll be sinking what could have been your future investments into training new hires. 

With that in mind, we wanted to help you catch bad employee morale before it strikes. By identifying the signs and symptoms of low engagement in your office, you can proactively make decisions that will boost morale, which will be a rising tide that raises everyone’s ship.  

Not Showing Up: Increased Tardiness & Absences

For starters, a red flag among employees who might not be feeling so rah-rah about their work is when they stop showing up. 

And we’re not talking about just cutting and running. It’s about showing up in the little things, whether they’re missing the early morning meetings, failing to follow-up with their clients or coworkers, or taking “unlimited vacation” a little too seriously. 

We’re not here to argue whether every employee needs to work the same amount of time to get their job done or not. What we are saying is that when your morale is high, and you’re an engaged employee, you’re going to show up and do the job you’ve been tasked to do. 

If you don’t care about it, why bother?

The Blame Game: Excuses Over Solutions

One major indicator for engaged employees is that they’re focused on growth—not just of their team or the organization, but for themselves personally. As employees, managers, and CEOs, we should always be focused on ways that we can develop new skills, and sharpen the ones that we already have. 

As we’ve pointed out here before, any good business should want that for its employees as well—and it’s actually something that increases engagement. 

So when an employee is constantly seeking to blame others or excuse their own behavior, it’s a sure sign that they’re not invested in growth. They’d rather find a reason that it’s not their fault, rather than learning from a mistake or poor performance and then moving on. 

Putting the “I” in Team: Lack of Cooperation

No organization is going to realize its full potential unless they have employees who want to work as a part of a team. Collaboration, whether it’s cross-department or simply across your small corner of the building, it’s important that employees don’t isolate themselves in their work. 

Employees that do that are not focused on the good of the organization, they’re simply out either to prove their worth (to you, or to a prospective future employer), make a name for themselves—or worse yet, simply punch a clock. 

Instead, encourage healthy competition that allows employees to see the value in each other, learn from higher performers, and help them to align their role within the broader context of how it benefits their entire business. 

Sour Grapes: Bad Attitudes

This one’s pretty straightforward. 

Listen, we’ve all had bad days, and even bad weeks, but when an employee is more than just down in the dumps, it can create toxic effects that spread far beyond their cubicle. 

Bad attitudes certainly happen for reasons beyond the office, but that’s what makes the solution to this problem so simple: it’s keeping an open door, and being proactive about employee outreach. 

If something is going on outside of the office that’s affecting an employee’s performance, you can’t know that unless a conversation happens. Take time to sit down with your employees, hear them out, and demonstrate that you’re invested in their best interests. You may be surprised what you discover in a simple conversation. 

Missing Results: Poor Performances

Speaking of attitudes that prevent high performance, how about performance that prevents high performance? 

Oftentimes we’ll draw a straight line from poor performance to deficiency in skill or some other “fundamentals” factor (e.g. in sales, maybe they just need to prospect more!). But poor performance can also be an indicator of low morale. 

Do they not see the point of their job? Do they wish they were with another department? 

Don’t be so quick to make a judgement—there’s also the possibility that they simply don’t understand the role. If they continue to take the wrong steps and unknowingly yield the wrong results, that’s almost certainly causing them frustration. 

Make sure you help your employees by giving them key performance indicators by which to assess their work. That way, they can be sure they’re taking the right (or wrong) steps toward success. 

Broken Compass: No Sense of Goals or Direction

Do you know your employees’ goals for their job? Do you know if they are on the management track, or maybe they’ve come in from a completely different field? Do you know if they’re hoping to save for a major life moment? 

It’s possible that they haven’t aligned those goals with their current job, and that loss of direction and lack of goal-setting is going to leave them feeling pretty unsatisfied with their work.

It’s essential to have both personal and professional goals hand in hand with any job if you want to be truly engaged. 

Beneath all of these signs is a common thread: communication. Take the time this week to establish clear lines of communication with your employees—so you can catch low morale before it affect performance, and give you employees the best shot they can possibly have and engaging—and thriving—in their careers.