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