Working on morale

It's never too late to turn around low morale

Staff morale can be a difficult thing to keep a handle on for many organisations, particularly as they grow larger.

When you’re in a small company, management can usually see for themselves how morale is and deal with it accordingly. But when organisations grow, it’s not always easy for management to keep tabs on it.

According to an article by Julia King in Computerworld US, morale in the world of IT is low.

“In June, nearly three quarters of 650 companies surveyed by Meta Group reported having morale problems among their IT staffs. The year before, two thirds of executives cited poor worker morale as an issue.”

The lowered morale comes in the wake of layoffs, but also is a result of “slashed resources, unrealistic expectations, willfully blind management and inane policies and procedures”.

The result, writes King, is poorer innovation and productivity as workers deal with fear, exhaustion, bitterness and resentment.

Part of the problem, says King, is the loss of what IT used to be like: “a well-paid profession made up of hands-on problem solvers who were respected for their abilities.”

Now, the article says, contract work seems to be the only answer if you want to be a “doer” and “doers” are being seen as a commodity.

“'We're now running more like a sweat shop. We aren't given the little professional-level luxuries that we used to have before,’ notes an IT worker. ‘If you order a piece of ergonomic equipment, they'll frown on you. We're not viewed as professionals anymore but as being disposable and replaceable, so you keep your nose to the grindstone’."

So what to do? One expert quoted in the story suggests keeping morale up by publicising the top three IT projects each fiscal quarter. Managers should also ensure there is transparency around career development plans so employees don’t fear their future in an organisation.

Other advice in King’s article includes hiring conservatively in the first place, so that if staff numbers need to be lost it can be done through attrition.

Also, needless to say, the organisations with the best morale are also best at honest and clear communication.

The good news is that it’s never too late to turn around low staff morale, according to a Tech Republic article on ZDNet by David Southgate.

The article suggests things like team-building exercises and creating custom-made "badge of honour" programmes, which should help motivate those who aren't feeling appreciated, which the article says is a big cause of low morale.

“Staff members with low morale believe no one cares, or wants to hear, their input and suggestions. A clear sign that job morale is low is that employees have lost their interest in what's happening in the industry and lost their passion for what's possible with technology.”

Other ideas include keeping teams small, cross training in an additional skill and saying no to unrealistic deadlines.

“IT leaders need to draw a line early on, even if [it] means forestalling projects, to avoid ‘slave-driving people’…”

When morale improves, you may see sick days and absenteeism drop, while productivity and work quality improves.

If else fails, perhaps you and your workmates, superiors and subordinates could try the advice from Susan M Heathfield, who suggests that you make your password a positive affirmation. Some suggestions include: “I am best”; “wonderful me”, “I rock” and “I’m gorgeous”.

Yeah right. Just imagine those times when for whatever reason you do have to share your password with someone else. It’s bad enough when you have to admit it’s “Fluffybum” after your childhood pet rat, but imagine owning up to "I am best" or "Wonderful me."

Mills is a Dunedin-based writer. She can be contacted at

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