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Principles of Management

Many years ago I worked for a company that had severe morale problems. During my hiring interview the owner lightly reviewed his goals for me. I was hired for the position and during my first day I followed the guidelines given and began working on the stated goals. Just after I arrived to work the second day the owner called me into his office to yell (yes, yell) about the work I had done the day prior and cuss me out because he did not like what I had done. Of course the door to the office was open and everyone in the company could hear him pitch his little temper tantrum, but they had seen it plenty of times before themselves.  I should have walked away right then, but I needed the job. That initial management experience set the tone for the remainder of my time with the company.

I soon learned that the boss lacked problem solving skills. His method of dealing with issues was first to hire an experienced person to manage a problem (for example- hiring me for my area of expertise) then pitching a temper tantrum to get them to perform the job his way. Instead of hiring experts he should have hired people with no experience and simply told them how to do the job the way he wanted it. He would have saved a lot of money. As you can imagine, turn over in the company ran about 20% which is astronomical for a company with only 16 employees.

In my experience, if a company is having morale problems it is because of the way management or a person in management acts and responds to problems. Usually the source of contention is a manager or owner having a power trip or a case of egotism. In the company I worked for the temper tantrums always started the same. First the employee was blamed, then, as much as two hours later, the tantrum ended with how good the owner himself was personally and how he started with nothing and had created a million dollar company through his own hard work without the help of anyone else. (gag)

Initial Signs of Bad Morale

It is human nature for an employee to produce unsatisfactory results when that employee is unsatisfied. Therefore, one of the first signs of poor morale is a decrease in work performance. This can be exemplified in quality of work as well as a bending of the rules. Employees may start coming in later, leaving early and taking longer breaks. The reason is simple. They are trying to minimize the amount of time they are physically in the stressful environment. If tardiness is increasing while quality is decreasing the management probably needs to look inward to solve the situation.

The company I worked for experienced the low quality work as well as increased employee tardiness. However, instead of looking at the real problem, they began watching the door to catch people arriving late or leaving early. They also instituted random cubicle checks twice daily to insure employees were actually working. Finally, they also made employees begin keeping track of each activity they performed and submit daily time reports listing the activity and time spent. Each of these new rules only made the morale even lower. Employees began banding together and working to notify each other when a member of management began doing the random checks. The work situation became "us versus them."


I don't know why, but it seems that there is a deficit of people who have the character to be introspective and view themselves as a potential source of a problem. Fewer still are strong enough to make personal changes as required to fix a problem. Upper level management tends to blame employees instead of looking at lower level managers as possible problems. Quite simply, it is often easier to replace employees than to replace and train a new manager.

I have had the opportunity to work all levels of employment from bottom rung grunt to CEO. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes. I said things I should not have and acted foolishly at times. But my door was always truly open and I listened to my employees. When an incident called for me to stand firm, I did. But when I made a mistake I tried to learn from it and proceed a different direction. My employees knew I respected them for who they were and for what they brought to the table. My way of doing things was not always the best. Sometimes they had better, more efficient ideas. When an employee showed a particular strength I was more than happy to let them run with that strength and utilize them where possible.

What is so Hard?

Fear of failure.
Fear of looking like they are not in control.

Pride and fear keep many managers from making the changes necessary to increase morale in their companies. They fear that change will be seen as a sign of weakness to their employees. What they don't realize is that in the employee's eyes they are already weak, pitiful and a whole host of other adjectives.


Ego and power trips are the most difficult to overcome. In a majority of cases the manager has no desire to change. Their entire life is about how great they are and what they can make people do. Often the only solution for these people is firing them. Unless the manager or owner desires to personally change then employee has little recourse but to move on and find a better work situation where they will be appreciated.

Morale is Important

A company with great morale has great employees. The employees could be scooping poop or doing some other job that seemingly no one would ever want to do, but if they are treated with respect then the job itself will be fine. And here's another secret. It is less expensive to operate a company with high morale than a company with low morale. If people really enjoy working somewhere wages do not have to be as high (remember, though, the workman is worthy of his hire). Productivity will be greater and quality will be above average. All of these aspects can translate to better products or better service. This, in turn, leads to satisfied customers or clients who want to spend their money on better products or services.



Publish date: January 27, 2015

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