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1.      Introduction

Morale is the esprit de corps inside organization and is a product of satisfaction with work done, sense of personal worth, identification with the group, pride in the organization, general satisfaction with remuneration and benefits (Monk, 1998). Therefore, morale is vital to organizational success as it affects employee performance and productivity, which in turn affect individual and organizational objectives. 

2.      Literature Review

Morale has been defined by Beach (Monk, 1998) as .the total satisfaction a person derives from his/her job, working group, boss, the organization and environment.  It is also affected by his/her personality structure.  Morale pertains to the general feeling of well-being satisfaction and happiness of people・.  Morale can vary from positive (high) and negative (low), but never absent (George, 1985).  Effective managers need to exert their energies to understand factors influencing morale, the impact of morale on productivity, constantly monitor indicators of low morale and identify ways to build or maintain morale (Figure 1).

2.1  Factors Influence Morale in Workplace

Understanding the factors influencing morale can help the management to develop ways to maintain high morale.  It can be identified as external and internal factors (Figure 2): 

External factors are influences outside the organization that are beyond the management・s control, such as employees・ family relationships, problems with friends, etc (Hilgert et al, 1995).  The factors may significantly affect employees・ morale and hence, effective managers should alert to their existence and do whatever possible (like counseling with empathetic listening) to reduce the impact.

Internal factors involve supervision and management aspects, which are more complicated as they are associated with morale to the degree of which individuals identify with the goals of the organization (Costley and Todd, 1991). 


Managers・ general approach to supervision and leadership style directly affects employees・ morale.  McGregor・s theory (Schermerhorn, 1996) in Table 1 indicates that managers with Theory X assumptions tend to be overly directive and control oriented, which create passive, dependent, and reluctant subordinates with low morale.  In contrast, managers with Theory Y perspectives give subordinates more participation, freedom, and responsibility to satisfy their self-esteem, self-actualization needs and self-fulfilling prophesy that foster high morale.  Therefore, good morale is based on managers・ ability of delegation, empowerment and communication.

Theory X assumes people:

-          dislike work

-          lack ambition

-          are irresponsible

-          are resistant to change

-          prefer to be led rather than to lead

Theory Y assumes people:

-          are willing to work

-          are capable of self-control

-          are willing to accept responsibility

-          are imaginative and creative

-          are capable of self-direction

Table 1: McGregor・s Theory X and Theory Y
(Source: Schermerhorn, John (1996), Management, fifth edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Canada, p 35)

Managers・ general attitude and behavior in day-to-day relationships also have a significant influence on employees・ morale (George, 1985; Hilgert et al, 1995).  If managers show negative attitudes (like suspicious, worry, or lose temper), employees tend to follow suit and low morale will likely result.  Conversely, if managers show positive attitude (like confidence in work), this reinforces their positive outlook and creates high morale.

Managers・ skill at human relations has a direct bearing on employees・ morale (George and Cole, 1992).  Good morale can only be encouraged through work environment with good human relations, respect and recognition for individuals, good communication and counseling. 


High morale cannot be ordered, but it can be fostered by conditions in the workplace that are favorable to its development (Hilgert et al, 1995).  Employees・ morale is inspired by motivation. Herzberg's Two-factor Theory (Figure 3) indicates that motivators determine job satisfaction and performance while hygiene factors do not motivate but their absence can result in job dissatisfaction (Stone, 1998).  Good morale depends on management・s sensitivity to correct hygiene factors (like pay, working conditions, interpersonal relations, supervision, company policy and administration) and build motivators (like recognition, intrinsic interest in the work, responsibility and advancement) in the organization.  

Workplace climate is one key aspect influencing morale (George and Cole, 1992).  A trust, open communication, friendly and vitality workplace can affect morale and help employees to feel more satisfied in their jobs.  Good morale can be fostered through strategic communications to share organizational goals and expectations with employees (MacDonald, 1999; Belilos, 1999).  Poor morale occurs when employees are insecure and doubtful for organizational goals due to lack of open communication and trust. 

2.2  Impact of Morale on Productivity

Davis (Frunzi and Savini, 1997) points out that there is not always a positive correlation between morale and productivity (Figure 4).   However many substantial evidences show that in the long run high-producing employees do tend to have high morale.

High morale puts employees in a frame of mind to be productive and in a burning desire to achieve and seek increased responsibility (Hilgert et al, 1995).  Employees are willing to cooperative, loyalty, voluntary discipline, initiative-interest, and pride in organization.  These distinctive features make employees satisfying in their position, have confidence in their ability, and work with enthusiasm to meet the organization・s strategic business objectives.

Unfortunately low morale is detrimental to the health, vitality, and productivity of the organization (Frunzi and Savini, 1997).  When it is present, employees feel that their professional lives have little worth or meaning.  Boredom, frustration, passive or openly hostile set in, and employees experience a feeling of hopelessness to change existing circumstances.  

2.3  Indicators of Low Morale

Indicators of low morale can be a thermometer to measure organizational ineffectiveness (Monk, 1998).  Table 2 has identified indicators of low morale (George and Cole, 1992; Weiss, 1998).

1.        High labor turnover

2.       No respect for supervisors

3.       Low productivity

4.       Excessive waste

5.       Large number of grievances

6.       Large number of accidents

7.       General lack of cooperation

8.       Poor quality of production

9.       Low regard for the company

10.     Excessive sick leaves

11.      Breaches of discipline

12.     Excessive absenteeism

13.     Loss of interest and enthusiasm

14.     Requests for transfers

15.     Change in attitudes

16.     Disloyalty

Table 2: Indicators of low morale

2.4  Ways to Build Morale

Bringing and maintaining morale to a high level is a continuous process and cannot be achieved simply through short-run devices so prevention for low morale is important (Hilgert et al, 1995; Betts, 1989).  Morale varies day to day and it is contagious in both directions because both favorable and unfavorable attitudes spread rapidly among employees (George 1985).  It should be a priority concern to develop and maintain employees・ morale at as high level as possible without sacrificing organizational objectives.  Figure 5 suggests some ways in which managers can build morale. 

Firstly, managers should show their involvement and concern by investing a significant amount of time in advising, counseling, coaching, training and listening to their employees, in which to ensure employees are clearly aware of organizational goals and expectations (NcNamara, 1999).

Secondly, managers should create corporate culture and supportive work environment by effective human resources strategies (Belilos, 1999).  It includes positive discipline, fair and just treatment to all, clearing defined policies, career and personal development training programs, comfortable and pleasant working environment, and appropriate reward programs.

Thirdly, managers should also identify programs and activities like employee assistance program and morale committees to boost morale, ranging from awards and work citations to education programs, to fun activities where enjoyment translates into good spirits in the workforce (Hilgert et a., 1995; Nelson, 1999).

Fourthly, managers should provide opportunity and recognition by structuring career planning programs (like job rotations and skills training) to capture prolonged interest from employees (Hoffman, 1999).  This gives employees opportunity to gain exposure while building self-esteem and credibility that is valuable for both the organization and the employees.  Managers should also recognize accomplishments that can prove to be a much more lucrative incentive than any financial considerations an organization may offer.

Fifthly, managers should adopt transformational leadership (Schermerhorn, 1996) by achieving special qualities as in Figure 6 to inspire influences to subordinates to achieve extraordinary performance.  They should clearly communicate their vision and expectations.  They should be honest and positive, use their personal power and attraction to build trust and emotion from employees.  They should understand, appreciate and recognize employees・ achievement; and respect individual qualities/abilities by empowerment and employees involvement.

Finally, managers should also develop human relations by promoting positive morale as it is the outgrowth of a caring, responsive organizational climate (Frunzi and Savini, 1997).  Paying attention to the little things that workers value, emphasizing open and honest communication, and developing employee recognition programs are essential supervisory practices leading to positive employee morale and substantial organizational returns.

Above guidelines will be only effective with support from all parties within the organization.  Effective managers should also observe morale frequently and conduct employee attitude survey timely to ensure morale is on its highest level (Stone, 1998).

3.      Applications

Ellis, department managers of Opel Limited, recently has some major problems in understanding and supervising her departmental employees.  The employees・ morale was low as indicated from several symptoms: no respects to Ellis, low productivity, general lack of cooperation, loss of interest and enthusiasm, and change in attitude (George et al, 1992; Weiss, 1998).

With help from human resource manager, Ellis found that there are three major factors to cause the low morale.  Firstly, Ellis was a directive and control oriented leadership (McGregor .s Theory X in Schermerhorn, 1996) and liked to do most part of the job.  Secondly, Ellis always lost her temper in handling difficult problems (George, 1985; Hilgert et al, 1995) and challenged her employees for poor work at open area.  Lastly, Ellis・ character made her seldom showed her recognition and appreciation to her employees for any achievements (Belilos, 1999).  This all resulted her employees feeling frustration, negative-minded, losing interests in work that eventually affected productivity and morale.

Ellis has consulted the human resource manager for ways to improve the situation.  She will change to be a transformational leadership (Schermerhorn, 1996) to inspire morale by providing employees with opportunities, recognition, empowerment and involvement (Hoffman, 1999).  She will improve her human relations and learn how to phrase work directives as requests and suggestions rather than just giving out orders (Frunzi and Savini, 1997).  Furthermore, Ellis will create a trustful and positive culture through supportive work environment (Belilos, 1999).  She will constantly alert for clues concerning changes in the morale of her department and develop programs and activities to boost morale in the workplace (Hilgert et al, 1995; Nelson, 1999). 

On the other hand, the human resource manger will constantly conduct employee attitude surveys (Stone, 1998).  By tabulating response data on a department-by-department basis, Ellis can assess the state of morale of her department in comparison to employees in other departments.  This could also help to identify problems that should draw supervisory and management attention (like Herzberg・s Two-factor Theory in Stone, 1998). 

4.      Conclusion

Morale reflects the quality of lives within an organization and can be positively or negatively influenced by external and internal factors.  Internal factors are more complicated to handle and effective managers should identify the causes that affect morale to develop strategies to maintain or build morale.  They should also monitor indicators of low morale and understand how level of morale can affect productivity.  Managers should also understand that high morale is the result of management involvement and concern, trustful and respective culture, supportive work environment, good human relations, positive motivation, effective supervisory leadership, good communication, participation, counseling, and desirable human relations practices.  Constantly observe morale and conduct employee attitude survey can diagnose morale problem to ensure it is at high level.   

As a conclusion, organizations achieve results through people so contemporary organizations require managers to display a concern for people.  Therefore, effective managers should appreciate the impact of morale to the employees・ attitudes, performance and productivity, in return affecting the organizational effectiveness and efficiency.


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