Management Must Be Heedful of Morale

Article excerpt

The sufferings of the unemployed and the prematurely retired are only one-half of the labor problem today. The other half is the morale of those still employed.

They are happy to have work, of course, but, increasingly, they aren't very happy about much else. The morale of the American worker - both blue- and white-collar - is becoming a major problem.

Business leaders know that the quality of their companies' products or services depend on a motivated worker. This used to mean a happy worker. Not anymore.

Today, pressed by constant threats to what were once secure businesses, management feels obliged to warn its employees that harder times are ahead. Regular promotions, pay increases and job security are a thing of the past.

Though a cliche, it is quite true that in an age of constant change and uncertainty, everyone must "work smarter," "add value," "re-invent" their jobs and in general do more with less.

But in business' anxiety to communicate this harsh reality, it is neglecting its workers' morale. More concerned to get across hard truths than worry about workers' spirits, management increasingly assumes morale must take care of itself.

The new motivation is supposed to be the oldest one of all: fear. Failure to adapt means unemployment for many tomorrow, bankruptcy and joblessness for all the day after. No responsible manager feels comfortable today unless he constantly repeats this message.

But while people may respond to fear of punishment in the present, they don't work well over time without the prospect of reward, as well.

Unfortunately, when workers complain, as they increasingly do, of sinking morale in the face of company cutbacks - of workers, pay, perks and benefits - management frequently ignores them.

Business leaders feel their own view is more realistic: It's a tough world out there; workers must adapt or perish; rewards are for boom times or the few whose services are in greater demand than the supply.

These truths are supposed to be motivation enough. They aren't.

No army, however well trained, equipped or organized, amounts to much unless the troops are enthusiastic - not merely aware of what may happen to them if they don't fight.

The best troops, even with inferior resources, are usually those with the highest morale. Generals are forever harping on its importance, always crediting victory to "the fighting spirit" of the men.

In fact, morale is so important that society routinely forgives the most blatant exaggeration if made for the purpose of furthering it. …

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