Enable Others to Achieve Results with Joy

Morale and the “Reciprocal Motivation Deficit”

Consider morale. Let’s define it as: A pervasive mood; the workforce’s general emotional state that effects productivity.

Because morale affects productivity, and productivity affects accomplishing your organization’s mission and its financial performance, morale matters.

If workers’ enthusiasm for their jobs weren’t truly important, no one would ever need to talk about a morale problem.

Not surprisingly, lackluster employee motivation is a common gripe of managers pressured to produce results. They’re often asking employees to do more work, to do it to higher standards, in less time with fewer resources.

Reciprocal Motivation

Employee morale is governed by the Law of Reciprocal Motivation which states:  Employee morale mirrors management’s commitment to them.

If you notice that your employees’ motivation level isn’t as high as it should be, you are perceiving worker frustration with something in your organizational system.

Employees may complain overtly; more likely, they are exhibiting a form of work slow down accompanied by malaise, a grumpy attitude, or what is known as “malicious compliance” — working strictly to the terms of a contract or work rules, and nothing more.

You get no discretionary effort; none of the “above and beyond,” the “extra mile,” or the “service with a smile” that positive morale naturally yields without you having to beg, cajole, or even ask.

Underneath Low Morale

Your associates mired in low morale likely are angry with, or bewildered by, an organization that either doesn’t value their contribution or inhibits them from working to their capacity. Most everyone desperately wants to do good work. So many times I’ve heard employees say, “How we’re doing this makes no sense! It’s not efficient. We tell management and they don’t do anything about it.” In circumstances like that, people give up hope, and hold back their best ideas and energy.

I call this condition the Reciprocal Motivation Deficit: “If you don’t care, then I don’t care.” Morale problems aren’t symptomatic of problems in the work force. They do, however, speak volumes about management.

What You Can Do

Pay attention to the mood of your colleagues. If your organization has a problem, the people who know send out clear signals. Listen and watch for them.

Listen to your employees’ frustration. Beneath the complaining, lies a pent-up demand to do great things. There only is a “morale problem” because your employees want your organization to work better. Think about what a gift that is: They care about how well the place operates!

Invite your employees to suggest ways to improve the organization. Once you begin heeding your colleagues’ suggestions, their attitude and the organization’s future will both improve.

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