How team morale affects employee performance

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshotSarah LaoyanJuly 21st, 20217 min read
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When you're building a team, you're looking for team members with the right skills to help your organization achieve its objectives. Part of helping your team achieve their full potential is making sure they’re supported and engaged at work. This is where team morale comes in. As your team grows, how do you create—and maintain—high team morale and job satisfaction across all of your team members? 

Building and sustaining employee morale starts with your company culture. A clear company culture can help guide morale when things go wrong. Ready to learn more about creating and maintaining strong morale? Here’s how.

What is employee morale?

Team or employee morale is the overall outlook that employees have towards their organization or business. In this context, morale can be described as the confidence that a person or group has in your organization or business. 

Good morale means that your employee satisfaction is high—people are generally engaged at work. When you start to see low employee morale, that means your employees are discontent. Look to see if anybody is experiencing burnout or is feeling disengaged with their work. While these are very general examples, there are many aspects that can affect employee morale.

3 ways to boost employee morale

Encouraging and maintaining morale starts with team leadership. As a team leader, there are a variety of things you can do to foster and maintain employee satisfaction, including:

1. Lead by example

Human beings are social creatures, and by nature, we look to those in leadership positions for cues on how to act. While everyone has their own unique way of leading, here are a few ways you can lead by example to create strong team morale:

  • Get involved in your team’s work. By being involved with your team, you're showing them that you not only trust them with their work, but that you’re engaged with their work. Engaged leaders better understand the work that their team does. Then, demonstrate your support by reinforcing how their individual work connects to broader business goals.

  • When in doubt, lead with empathy. Good leaders show employees that they care about them—not just as an employee but also as a person. Empathetic leaders give credit where credit is due, allow for flexibility when it's needed, and check in with team members regularly to see how they're feeling.

  • Lean into transparency. Regularly share information regarding company changes, challenges that your team is having, or even what's happening in your own life. Showing your team that you're also human creates a safe space for them to share their candid feelings as well.

  • Ask for feedback. A good leader creates opportunities for open feedback and takes that feedback to heart. Whether you do this in a 1:1, as a group, or anonymously, soliciting feedback can help your employees feel heard. That way, employees are less likely to discuss grievances with other coworkers in a way that can affect morale.

Read: How to lead by example, according to one Asana leader

2. Build trust with your team

When you build trust with your team, you’re sharing the responsibility so that everyone is empowered to do their jobs effectively and autonomously. You can do this by giving them the freedom to make decisions and encouraging them to grow their skillsets. When you trust your employees to make good decisions, they’ll feel more confident that their voice and opinion matter. This benefits the entire team because every team member can share their individual strengths and perspectives and put them to use in a meaningful way.

When your team is working hard, remember to give your employees the appreciation they deserve. Identify team members who are making an impact and recognize them for the specific work they have contributed. A blanket statement doesn’t do much for employee morale, but highlighting specific contributions shows that you care about their work and their impact on the company.

Examples of meaningful employee recognition:

  • “Thank you for making time to accommodate that last-minute meeting. I know you have a busy schedule so I appreciate your flexibility.”

  • “The extra slide that you added to the presentation brought a lot of value. Thank you for sharing your expertise.”

  • “Thank you for your patience handling that difficult customer. The patience you showcased is a fantastic example of what our team members should strive for.”

3. Help employees thrive outside of work

Your team’s overall wellbeing is just as important to their morale as workload and resources. When you’re committed to helping your employees live a healthy and satisfying life outside of work, they’re more likely to be engaged at work, creating a positive work environment for other team members. 

Work-life balance is a key part to your team’s wellbeing. If someone is juggling several deadlines, sick kids, and also trying to maintain a clear head for work the next day, that’s a recipe for burnout. According to the Anatomy of Work survey conducted by Asana, 71% of survey respondents reported feeling burnout at least once in 2020.

Enable your team to thrive by encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Offer regular breaks—extended time off—and not just daily lunch breaks. Encouraging employees to take time off not only helps employee productivity, but can also increase morale. 

Employees are also more likely to have higher job satisfaction if they have access to benefits that enable them to thrive outside of the workplace. Benefits like child care, parental leave, transportation, and healthcare can all contribute to employee engagement. These are all things outside of work that can affect someone's daily life, and when robust benefits are available, employees can focus on doing their jobs well instead of worrying about their responsibilities outside of work. While employee benefits are handled by a small section of employees, team leads can use their voice to advocate for the benefits that their team needs to thrive. 

Factors that can decrease team morale

Employee morale is an important aspect of company culture that needs consistent attention and care. When you aren’t intentional about creating a strong team culture, morale can decrease. Here are a few facts that contribute to low team morale:

Stressful company culture

Many things can contribute to a stressful company culture. Frequent operational changes and high turnover rate are all things that can create high stress for employees. 

Frequent changes in an organization can cause stress on employees by making them feel unstable. If a company can't decide how to organize their team members or establish standard processes, this makes it difficult for employees to do their work effectively. For example, a team may have a manager set a specific process, and then within a few months a new manager may join and set an entirely different process. Having to switch processes in a short amount of time can cause confusion and thrash.

A high turnover rate can also cause stress to your team. Having to continually train new hires can create more work for team members. In addition to hiring, it will take time for new employees to fully ramp up. When employee turnover is high, your team doesn’t have the opportunity to focus on the work they were hired to do, but are more focused on getting new team members onboarded. If team members are constantly being cycled in and out, the work that helps companies meet their goals will take longer to complete. 

If team leads start seeing an increase in turnover rate, it’s necessary to start implementing strategies to prevent a dip in morale. Establishing strong team dynamics and cross-training team members to ensure that there’s proper coverage if another team member is out can help your team stay afloat—regardless of what’s happening at the company level. 

Unstable leadership

Leadership plays a big part in company culture and employee morale. If there are frequent changes in leadership, employees don't have enough time to establish a relationship with their manager. It’s important to take time to build a one on one relationship with your reports. Your employees need to know that they have an advocate on their side. Managers also have the responsibility of being a connection to broader company goals and outlook. If that is constantly changing, employees might not get the information they need or feel connected to the broader purpose of their work.

Similar to the lack of clarity on goals, a lack of transparency on the performance of a company as a whole can quickly lower employee morale. If employees are seeing high employee turnover, emergency meetings, and constant shifts in leadership, those are sure fire signs that something is not going right. And when leaders don’t address real challenges with authenticity and transparency, employees can lose faith in leadership and experience lower morale.

Clear communication from leadership to employees can combat these stressors. If leadership is providing clarity to employees about their roles, responsibilities, and processes, they’ll know exactly what to do to meet those goals. With more clarity, team members can work on the things that contribute directly to company goals.

Read: 12 tips to effective communication in the workplace

Maintaining employee morale during remote work

Employee morale can change at any moment—and some of the reasons for that change may not be work-related at all. Let's take the COVID-19 pandemic for example. Many people had to drastically change their day-to-day work routines to shift—overnight—to remote work. 

The pandemic was a major external stressor that companies had very little control over. This change drastically shifted how many companies operated. To help their newly remote teams maintain morale, many companies adapted to the stressful circumstance of the pandemic by offering additional benefits and support. At Asana, we implemented global company holidays and mental health support to maintain a strong team morale and support team members as they learned how to work from home

Why should you care about employee morale?

Building team morale and company culture is an important step to establishing long-term employee satisfaction. But why is it so important to ensure that your company maintains high employee morale? Here are a few reasons:

High morale means happier employees

When employees are happy and have good work-life balance, they're more likely to produce higher quality work. Employees who experience less stress are more focused, creative and open to changes and new ideas. 

Less stressed employees also mean healthier employees. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals who are chronically stressed can have an increased risk of health problems, such as digestive issues, muscle tension, headaches, high blood pressure, and mental health problems. When people are less stressed, these health problems are less likely to occur. Employee wellness, both physical and mental, can lead to higher productivity and less absenteeism due to health problems.

Read: 6 tips to build a strong organizational culture, according to Asana leaders

High morale means increased employee retention

When employees are happy and engaged and have a positive outlook on their company, they’re less likely to search for a new job. Not only that, happy employees are the best recruiters for new talent. Engaged employees are more likely to refer people to an open position and speak positively about the company.

I strongly believe that collaboration is the key to solving the world’s biggest challenges. Working at Asana gives me the chance to help teams tackle some of the world’s biggest tasks, even if it’s in a small way by preparing our incoming new hires with the tools they need to succeed.

High morale starts with great leadership

Your company’s leadership and culture are the foundation for strong employee morale. Interested in learning more about how you can improve leadership at your company? You can find more articles on leadership in Asana’s resource library.

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