Lack of Communication With Staff Most Damaging to Morale, Survey Finds


November 6, 2008

MENLO PARK, CA - Frequent dialogue with employees may be the best way to raise their spirits, a new survey suggests. Nearly half (48 percent) of executives interviewed recently cited better communication as the best remedy for low morale. Not surprisingly, one-third (33 percent) of respondents said lack of open and honest communication with staff members tops the list of management missteps that can erode morale.

The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, “In your opinion, what is the best remedy for low morale?” Their responses:

  • Communication 48%
  • Recognition programs 19%
  • Monetary awards for exceptional performance 13%
  • Unexpected rewards (e.g., gift certificates or sporting event tickets) 11%
  • Team-building events or meetings 5%
  • Additional days off 3%
  • None of the above 1%

Executives also were asked, “Which one of the following has the most negative impact on employee morale?” Their responses:

  • Lack of open, honest communication 33%
  • Failure to recognize employee achievements 19%
  • Micromanaging employees 17%
  • Excessive workloads for extended periods 16%
  • Fear of job loss 14%
  • None of the above 1%

“Regular communication with employees is always integral to an organization’s success, but it becomes especially critical during periods of uncertainty,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Motivating Employees For Dummies® (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “When people are concerned about job security and company performance, updates on corporate news are essential. By keeping employees informed, managers can address anxiety and ensure workers are focused on meeting business objectives.”

Accountemps offers the following advice for fostering better communication with staff:

  • Manage the grapevine. Don’t ignore half-truths and unfounded speculation. Take control of the rumor mill to limit its potential to preoccupy employees. Be available when staff members have questions or concerns.
  • Make accessibility a priority. Respond promptly to individuals’ requests for help and initiate conversations about how their work is going. Also keep in mind that many employees feel more comfortable discussing their concerns if approached individually.
  • Listen. Avoid interrupting employees during discussions or acting distracted when you’re talking to your team. Also offer nonverbal feedback to show you’re actively listening.
  • Remember the value of in-person communication. Don’t allow frequent emails to replace face time with employees. Periodic staff meetings and one-on-one conversations are still the preferred methods for sharing important or complex information.
  • Get employees involved. Ask staff members to brainstorm creative ways to solve everyday challenges. Having a say in the outcome of a project motivates employees to do their best work.
  • Share the vision. When assigning tasks, explain how they support larger business objectives.

Accountemps has more than 360 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at