Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poor morale is like a cancer

It has been a long, long time since I wrote something about morale in the workplace. For one thing, I made the switch from an environment that promoted me to be vocal about the subject, and for another, I am now in a position of crafting that morale for my own team.

I have come back to this space not because I have stumbled across the magic silver bullet to workplace morale, but to again go back to where morale was a problem. Whilst I have moved on, the team I left behind appears to continue to feel the wrath of poor morale. Colleague after colleague has either left or been told to leave. Recently under a wave of 50 completely unnecessary redundancies sold under the practice of 'future-proofing'.

What I have noted from my conversations is that when poor morale finds a crevice to breed, it festers, grows and consumes all others. It has such a grip that it begins to cross teams, departments... entire infrastructures. Rather than looking for the source of the problem that lies in the few, the many have taken the sacrifice. Those that left of their own accord did so with a sense of abandonment. Those that stuck it out and were not afraid to point out where the problem lay were eventually culled. I fear now for those that remain. Are they happy? More so: are their jobs safe?

In my new workplace, I have been given the responsibility of nurturing 10 like-minded individuals in a field I am most passionate about. Whilst the environment is not essentially the best to breed great morale for our chosen profession, I hope I have made good use of the opportunity I have been given to enthuse and keep those I mentor happy and motivated. Feedback from my team suggests that I have done this and their long service hopefully continues to offer confirmation. It is because of this I wonder about my former workplace.

During my time holding this responsibility I have of course met with challenges. One such challenge caused such distress to the team that the full effect was only realized once the troublesome individual had left the team. The extent of their effect on the team made it seem impossible to enthuse anyone about their chosen careers or employer. This single person had such a hold over seemingly few individuals that they were close to destroying not only the team, but the person that was put in place to achieve the exact opposite - me.

It would not be too insensitive to compare the similarities of this one person's effect on the team to that of a cancer. The strain was so hard on the team, that it drained all happiness and enthusiasm from those that were closest in contact. Once the cancer had been cut away, life returned and in abundance.

This particular cancer was contained. Contained within a small team. Isolated. The impact whilst harmful, was manageable. Treatment was swift and the recovery was quick.

My question: If a single individual with no authority to establish their effect on a group wider than their immediate colleagues can bring a team to its knees, what does that mean for a manager with greater influence? At my old workplace, are good cells being sacrificed for the benefit of the bad? Does the virus lie within the people it has now infected, or within the managers that have allowed it to spread?

1 comment:

  1. Well here I am responding to you in hopes of relieving some much needed tesion.
    Morale as struken everyone including myself an HR Rep who is supposed to assit with the change efforts. However when you are battling with Leadership constantly and they try to bring you down, its almost silly. I have even questioned myself if I am in the right career anymore.
    Days I believe in my field, and days I do not.
    I have reached a plateau, and yes, pointed immediately of my errors. Now I have fear, and am battling and fighting to not let it overcome me. I am trying to stay sane, and be the little performer I have been for almost three years. However, am now being scrutnized regarding every error I make. Just tired of it all.