How to Ruin Employee Morale


The number one way and number two way of ruining employee morale is lack of communication and poor communication.  That is a bold statement, yes, but none-the-less it is true.  Let’s look at a military parent, for example, that must give the bad news to their family that they have to move again.  Below, we see three examples of how this possibly could go down.

  • Poor Communication: Susan, yet again has learned that she is going to have to move her family again.  She goes home that night upset, with tears in her eyes and a red face she calls her mom and tells her the news over the phone.  Without realizing that Susan’s daughter was listening, her daughter overhears the news and runs to her room.  Susan quickly finishes up the call with her mother and goes to check on her daughter.  When she opens the door, she finds a note on the bed and her daughter’s window open with the curtain flowing in the wind.  Susan reads the letter, her daughter refusing to leave her friends behind has run away from home and plans on staying behind.
  • Lack of Communication: Susan has found out from her sergeant that she is to report in a new town in one week. She goes home, enjoys a nice meal with her family, kisses her kids’ goodnight, and then goes to bed.  This happens every night that week, until the night before.  On the last night, as she tucks her kids into bed and gives them a kiss on the cheek, she breaks the news to them that they must move again.  This, of course, breaks her daughters’ heart as she realizes that she is going to miss all her friends.  This story also ends in the sadly, with her daughter running away in an attempt to stay behind.
  • Thoughtful Communication: Having empathy for her daughter, Susan decides to setup a meeting with her daughter’s teacher to discuss how best to communication to her daughter that they are having to move.  The teacher provides some important insights to Susan and an important reminder that her daughter really wants to take dance lessons and the new town just so happens to have a dance studio.  This dance studio would be the perfect opportunity for Susan’s daughter to make new friends and connect with new people and the new town.  That evening at home, Susan tells her daughter of the pending move, she comforts her daughter and reminds her that even though they are moving she will still be able to visit and stay in contact with her friends through social media.  She explains all that the new town has to offer, especially about the dance studio.  Her daughter had been begging Susan for months to let her join dance lessons, and news that a dance studio will be in the new town brings a small smile across her face as she realizes that the new town couldn’t be all bad.

With poor communication, an employer can often lose their best employees because they want to “stay-behind” in their comfort zone.  Intentional thought must take place when deciding the how, when, where, and why when it comes to communicating bad news to your employees.  If you can find the best way to tell them, coupled when the best time to tell them, and tie it into where to tell them, and pull it all together with why – you can save yourself a lot of headache and your employees a lot of stress.

  • How – Is it something that should really go out in an email? Sometimes news needs to be announced in person, whether that be from their direct supervisor, a video conference, or even a live in-person conference – you can often connect with and show your staff you have empathy for them much better in person. (Kerstin Alfes)
  • When – If your employees just found out they won’t be getting their quarterly bonus, then now is probably not the best time to tell them that they won’t be getting a raise next year either. Show your employees that you care about them as people and that you have an invested interest in them and their success.  This extra effort that you put into your employees can really increase their morale.  This would be the perfect opportunity to put your improvisation leadership skills to work.
  • Where – If you are having to make the tough business decision to not give out quarterly bonuses this year, think of where the best place to break that news to your employees would be. While they are alone in their office, reading their work e-mail might not be the best place.  Perhaps a staff meeting would be better, where you can explain why you had to make the tough decision.  They are more likely to connect with you and your reasons on a personal level if they can see how tough of a decision it really was to make. (Denisi)
  • Why – Why are you having to break this bad news to them? Is it because production has suffered?  Is the economy slumping?  Whatever the reason, your employees deserve to know “the why”.  And hey, they might even surprise you with some amazing possible solutions to whatever problem you are facing.  Give your employees the communication they deserve.  Give them an invested interest in helping your company succeed.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Managing employee morale doesn’t have to be difficult.  With the right tools, thoughtful communication, and authentic empathy – your employees will be your strongest supporters.  Visit my website at for your free 30-minute consultation, where we can discuss what obstacles you are facing and we can develop a plan to break down those obstacles.


Denisi, David M. Schweiger and Angelo S. “Communication with Employees Following a Merger: A Longitudinal Field Experiment.” Academy of Management JournalVol. 34, No. 1 (2017).

Kerstin Alfes, Catherine Truss, Amanda Shantz, Emma Soane, Rick Delbridge. Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. Routledge, 2014.

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