The High Cost of Low Morale (and How to Create a More Progressive Workplace)

February 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

U.S. workers put in more hours on the job than the labor force of any other industrial nation, including Germany and Japan, where death from overwork has a name: karōshi.

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

Longer hours have been connected to low morale increased absenteeism and employee turnover, which cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Stress Related Illness

Despite progress in implementing so called ‘work-life balance’ programs, stress-related illness remains a serious concern and health risk in the workplace. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress. Simply put, negative work environments increase stress while positive work environments can become a protective factor for your health long-term. Negative work environments have a “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

The Toxic Boss

Studies show that 50% of Americans hate their bosses and an even larger percentage say their boss being fired would make them happier than getting a raise!

The fact is that bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. By some estimates, abusive supervision costs companies $23.8 billion a year. But stress-producing bosses are not just bad for productivity, morale, loyalty, and engagement. They are literally bad for your heart.

In a large-scale study of over 20,000 employees conducted at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees. Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Call to Action: The Progressive Workplace

Companies must catch on to the high price of their bad hires. They must also recognize the negative impact of regressive policies on their employees. Progressive work-life policies such as flex time, child care and opportunities to care for loved ones are a must. But they must also get better at screening out poisonous personality types and tasking leadership with creating an atmosphere and culture that is conducive to productivity and creativity. The job of leadership is to bring out the best in their people. It is said after all, that people don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Creating a positive and healthy work culture should be in the job description of every manager.

The progressive workplace recognizes the contribution of all employees no matter their position. It offers development opportunities, flexibility and feedback. It offers employees a sense of purpose and is build upon a foundation of trust and collaborative relationships.

A workplace is often a reflection of a company’s true culture. Shifting the culture in a new direction will create higher morale and buy-in and before long, you will see a company full of ‘intrapreneurs’ who think of the organization as their own and take decisions to make things happen. Creating an extraordinary team culture and climate of creativity where talent can flourish is not easy, but it is your mandate as a leader.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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