FAQ about the Low Morale Study

Q:  What is low morale?

A: Low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to abuse or neglect in the workplace.

Q:  What kinds of abuse are people exposed to during low-morale experiences?

A: During low-morale experiences, employees are exposed to one or more of the following: emotional abuse, verbal/written abuse, system abuse, and negligence. Employees have also reported physical abuse.

Q: What are Enabling Systems?

A: Enabling systems are individual behaviors or organizational cultures, structures, policies, or ethoses that inadvertently enforce or underpin low-morale experiences. Examples include:

  • Staffing & Employment
  • Racism
  • Policies
  • Mistrust & Uncertainty
  • Leadership

Q: Which leadership styles are mostly likely to engender low morale?

A: Authoritarian and toxic leaders are most likely to exhibit or allow workplace behaviors that promote abuse or neglect. Laissez-faire, absent, and ambivalent leaders also contribute significantly to the development of low morale.

Q: What are the impacts of low morale on affected employees?

A: There are several impacts that negatively impact physical health, mental health, and career practice and development. Here are a few:

  • Weight loss/weight gain
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Migraines
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief/Sadness
  • Reduced professional engagement
  • Reduced professional confidence

Q: How does low morale affect organizations?

A: Low morale negatively impacts workplace culture and workflows in several ways, including:

  • Reduced productivity
  • Reduced collegiality
  • Increased employee tardiness and/or absenteeism
  • Increased procrastination
  • Decreased collaboration
  • Increased silos
  • Increased employee turnover

Q: Is there a difference between coping strategies and mitigation methods?

A: Yes. Coping strategies are conscious or unconscious – and positive or negative – behaviors that low morale victims perform to reduce the effects of low morale. These behaviors do not effect abusers and may not change the trajectory of their experience. In contrast, mitigation methods are deliberate behaviors low morale victims perform to resolve their experience – such behaviors include engaging with Enabling Systems and/or they have a direct impact on abusers or the organization.

Q: Is there a particular coping strategy that helps employees deal with low morale?

A: Talking with other employees who are having the same experience is overwhelmingly the most popular coping strategy. Employees dealing with low morale often believe they are the only ones having this experience, and talking with others offers a significant sense of relief and community.

Q: What is the most identified mitigation method?

A: Most employees suffering from low morale begin looking for new jobs. Affected employees also have created unions and created or improved policies to address workplace abuse and neglect.

Q: Is there an unusual mitigation method that you’ve discovered?

A: There is something that some affected employees may do, called job ushering. This is when affected employees give their abuser a good job reference with the hope that the abuser will leave the current workplace.

Q: How can low morale be reduced?

A: Countermeasures are emerging. Commentary and research show that the following actions may help:

  • Pushback against systems and cultures that center or normalize overwork, production as a means-to-an-end, or “doing more with less.”
  • (Re)prioritizing employees’ mental and physical health as key to healthy workplaces
  • Stating, promoting, and supporting values and policies that hold employees accountable for their actions
  • Offering inclusive workplaces that acknowledge, seek, and value different experiences and ways of being and knowing.

A Renewal Seminar or Workshop can help your organization identify and reduce low morale.


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