What Are the Causes of Employee Demoralization?

by Jonathan Lister ; Updated September 26, 2017

Demoralized workers are bad for a company's productivity levels and the quality of client service. Low employee morale can result from a variety of sources, including from the actions of management as well as the example superiors choose to set for lower-level workers. A close examination of the workplace is necessary to determine how business strategies and management actions are affecting employee morale.

Lack of Workplace Trust

Workplace relationships between employees and management personnel are built primarily on trust according to the American Management Association. Employees may display low morale and a general air of demoralization when management treats them like tools and not people with valuable opinions and perspectives on the tasks at hand. Emotionally disengaged employees who feel manipulated by this management strategy won't work as hard for the business and may produce a lower quality of work or simply take longer to complete tasks.

Lack of Upward Mobility

A mail-room clerk who knows he's never ascending through the company's ranks and out of the lowest level will only work so hard to keep his job. An organizational culture that lacks a means for workers to be upwardly mobile and earn promotions through hard work can demoralize the staff as these employees watch executives and management personnel enjoy lucrative benefits and perks while the work of lower-level employees goes unrewarded. According to the website for Human Resources IQ, a lack of upward mobility also shows a disconnect between the expectations of management and the example these personnel set for lower-level employees.

Department Infighting

Infighting among team members can drag department morale down and demoralize workers on the receiving end of workplace harassment. Management must be proactive in confronting instances of harassment in the workplace and immediately discipline workers guilty of committing such acts. Management and ownership who permit a culture of harassment to permeate the workplace can cause worker morale to slip even further. They may even incur civil liability if affected employees choose to sue for creating a workplace where harassment can thrive.

Micromanaging Employee Jobs

Monitoring employees is an acceptable means of controlling product quality, but watching workers too closely can shake employee confidence and weaken morale. Micromanaging occurs when management or ownership question and critique worker performance at every turn -- even simple tasks. Micromanagement causes workers to fear unrealistic retribution for failing to perform up to an invisible standard, according to the American Management Association. Setting clear expectations for worker performance and allowing these employees to engage in tasks without immediate critique can help keep morale steady and avoid demoralizing the workforce as a whole.

About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.