Working Through
Low Morale at Work

Low Morale at Work

Regardless of the type of work you do, or the environment in which you do it, when morale is low, everyone suffers.

Ill-mannered attitudes can wear a person - and a staff - down, placing a dark cloud over the workplace.  Low morale makes you feel alone and isolated, even among a group of people.  

No matter how low-morale situations are recognized or labeled, there are things you can do in aiming to be etiquette-ful during your time at work.

What Causes Low Morale?

It's been said that "one bad apple can spoil the bunch."  And low morale in a place of business is one example of how true this idiom is.

Think of the "why's" that can cause low morale:

  • Under-staffed
  • Unclear values or poor implementation of them
  • Unusual challenges that have become the norm
  • Unanticipated expectations
  • Uncompromising clients, co-workers, or managers
  • Ungrateful attitudes of clients, customers, managers, or employees
  • Unfriendly remarks or behaviors

All of the above can stem from the attitude or actions of one person.  Unfortunately, negativity spreads quickly so it doesn't take long for an entire workplace to become caught in its grasp.

“Unlike bullying, which is a coordinated, persistent effort to cause someone physical or emotional harm, incivility is often played down as relatively harmless. In fact, it’s estimated that workplace incivility costs companies an average of $14,000 in lost productivity per employee, per year.” 
~ Rosanne Thomas

Etiquette-ful Engagement

Because etiquette is about honoring the dignity of every person, we try to show respect by engaging others in recognizably respectful ways.  While you may be working in a negative environment, it is up to you to take responsibility for the attitude and energy you bring into it.

  • Wear a smile to wherever work begins.  
  • Welcome and greet others.
  • Be mindful of the space of others and of their privacy.
  • Conduct "personal attitude scans" and monitor to leave out sarcastic, unfriendly, or gossipy comments.
  • Take care of mistakes promptly and apologize sincerely.
  • Reply to phone calls and emails in a timely manner.
  • Remove complaining from your vocabulary.
  • Express appreciation and gratitude in person and in writing.
  • Show that you value others’ contributions. 
  • Even if conditions appear inflexible, flex your kindness muscles.
  • Be positive, even when things are negative:  “John, I know we’ve had a time of it, so for today, what can we do to bring out better?”

When It's Too Much to Take

When you are the lone, positive fish in a sea of negativity, swimming against the tide becomes more and more difficult as time goes on.  The best you can do is try not to be discouraged.

Some tips to help keep your chin up:

  • Have a hobby or activity you can look forward to coming home to.
  • Keep your home life organized and as stress-free as possible.
  • Use lunch breaks to get out of your workplace.
  • If your company allows telecommuting, give it a try and see if it's a better option than working in the office.
  • Keep a few vacation days or paid-time-off days aside to use for "mental health days."
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for other job opportunities - knowing there are other options will be a bright spot.

You might not be able to change the culture of your workplace or industry.  But you are in charge of yourself, and only you can choose to exercise good manners and a good attitude in spite of incivility in your surroundings.  Who knows-- your etiquette-fulness may boost the common quotient of morale.

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