Employee Morale - How to Kill It
Employee Morale: How Leaders Kill Meaning at Work
Highlights from article written by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in McKinsey Quarterly.
Many executives believe their top priority is to develop a winning business strategy. The authors suggest that a task just as important is to improve morale and to help workers to successfully execute on the strategy.
In a large-scale, several year project referred to the authors’ book, The Progress Principle, they argue that the single most important thing that leaders can do for their employees is provide them meaningful work.
The authors outline how leaders throughout organizations hurt employee morale. Examples include:
- Ignoring or dismissing ideas
- Hurting a sense of ownership by quickly change goals and work assignments
- Not keeping employees up-to-date on priorities
As a senior executive, you may think you know what Job Number 1 is: developing a killer strategy. In fact, this is only Job 1a. You have a second, equally important task. Call it Job 1b: enabling the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy. A multiyear research project whose results we described in our recent book, The Progress Principle, found that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. Even incremental steps forward-small wins-boost what we call “inner work life”: the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day. Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, inner work life affects the bottom line. People are more creative, productive, committed, and collegial in their jobs when they have positive inner work lives. But it’s not just any sort of progress in work that matters. The first, and fundamental, requirement is that the work be meaningful to the people doing it.