Employers shocked, shocked, that morale is low

In what can be described only as a stunning command of the obvious, a MetLife study shows that workers are growing restive as the economy rebounds from three years of struggle, and that employers are oblivious.

A story in the 28 March edition of USA Today quotes a psychologist saying that workers are stressed after watching co-workers get fired, being told to take on more work for the same pay, and longer hours. The MetLife veep is quoted (nice pop, MetLife PR!) saying that business’s understandable focus on financial matters has led to it ignoring human factors. It is pretty easy to be a “best employer” when the tide is in and Wall Street rocking.

There’s even an indirect from Towers Watson saying that companies are having a hard time “attracting employees with critical skills.”

How can any company say they’re surprised by these results? Add in a healthy dose of capitalist excess in the form of higher executive pay and you have a combustible mixture of anger and envy alongside the feeling that you need to leave to be appreciated.  During a downturn, people are OK with making less money — they indeed are just happy to have a job. After their sacrifice (which is how they see it), when the picture turns better, they expect to make up lost ground — the 3% raise isn’t enough — they didn’t get a raise for two years, so now they want 9% to pick up the slack. But Wall Street will punish any company that lets its fixed costs leap up like that!

Where’s a leader, though, who’ll redirect his or her whacking huge bonus to throw a bit more on the regular employee pile? How about a one-time 401(k) contribution? Maybe a small bonus to show the boss notices the dedication of the past few years?

If they can’t see how the tough stuff hurt loyalty and morale, they don’t deserve to be in business.



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4 Responses to “Employers shocked, shocked, that morale is low”

  1. Susan says:


    You have no idea how timely this post (and article) is for so many of us. Downsizings, politics, ignorance that employees are human beings with the same responsibilities outside of work as the leaders, communication regarding changes and support, where to find answers, etc. I could go on and on.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think many of the companies will ever realize that they don’t get it. Yes, I’d like some extra money, a job, etc., but I’d really like some respect.

  2. sean says:

    Susan – thanks for the comment. Respect should be such a simple matter! It seems, though, that the ascendency of the more ‘technical’ leadership disciplines leaves such trivialities to ‘others.’ Surely anyone can see the results of servant leadership in action — the best leaders are humans, not mere autocratic automatons. Yet, it seems that the workers (not just nonmanagers, either) are figures on a ledger, deserving of management only.

    Thx again for stopping by!

  3. Thanks for alerting readers to this topic Sean! Capitalism necessitates that there be economic winners and losers. Ironically, the winners are often the ones questioning why the losers are so unhappy.

    I often wonder if it our business schools who drive this culture or if somewhere along the way, business leaders lose not only their leadership skills, but their humanity, as well. Essentially, at what point does a person become “that” boss/manager/etc., who justifies the kinds of actions that everyone else finds abhorrent, like downsizing, massive bonuses, etc.

    But, then again, don’t the rest of us deserve some of the blame too? Why fight or rise up when there’s another episode of Dancing with the Stars on?

  4. Bob – thanks for your comment. Winners and losers happen in socialism, too, (and there are many more losers) so let’s not make this a polemic.

    In today’s Wall Street Journal, a review of John Kay’s Obliquity notes several examples of companies that worried less about shareholder value than making great products and services, and prospered. Those same companies, when putting shareholder value first as an objective, struggled. Former SW Airlines chief Herb Kelleher’s comment is apropos: If we take good care of our employees, they’ll take good care of our customers and we won’t have to worry about our shareholders.