team applauding coworker

Bolstering employee morale and unleashing motivation does not necessarily require offering expensive incentives or the implementation of big programs. There are cost-effective but tangible ways for organizations and team leaders to excel in these two areas.

As a team leader, you play a central role in helping your team members and organization reach their full potential. How can you improve employee morale and motivation? Let’s take a closer look at some practical strategies and why this is an important part of your responsibilities.

handshake with team applauding in background

What Is Employee Morale and Motivation?

Morale and motivation are connected, but it’s helpful to remember how each is distinct.


Morale is how people feel at work. It includes the attitudes they have about their work and level of satisfaction they feel. Morale plays a crucial role in building team member engagement and developing a positive sense of community among your team. A team with high morale is comprised of team members who feel included, valued, and supported.


High morale among team members, fuels motivation. Motivation is the level of drive and commitment an employee brings to their role daily. This energy is vital to sustaining your team members’ potential and reaching individual and strategic goals. While a manager cannot motivate an employee, he or she plays a critical role in unleashing motivation in team members.

What Is the Importance of Morale?

Positive morale is important because it creates a strong organizational culture where team members feel motivated, happy, and fulfilled.

Overall, high morale can lead to:

  • Amicable relationships: When employees feel valued and happy in their roles, it is more likely that they will foster harmonious relationships with others. People will communicate more effectively, feel more confident in collaborating with one another, overcome adversity, and exhibit positive attitudes.
  • Higher engagement: When morale is high team members feel better equipped to do their best work, work through challenges, and fulfill their individual and team responsibilities.
  • Higher productivity: Morale has been linked to productivity. When team members feel a high degree of support and are offered growth opportunities, they feel a deeper sense of ownership and do their work more effectively and efficiently.
  • Motivation: When morale is high, employees feel motivated to reach their full potential and make an impact on the organization.
  • Retention: A growing number of employees in the workforce consider positive organizational morale and strong company values as priorities in the organizations they choose to work for.

Who Is Responsible for Employee Morale?

As a team leader, you play a critical role in employee morale. Morale is a “trickle-down aspect of the employment relationship.” Unfortunately, some managers get caught up in day-to-day demands and neglect their responsibility to engage employees and build a strong culture.

Managers have a responsibility to help team members feel:

  • Part of a common purpose
  • Appreciated and included
  • Part of an honest and fair organization with a clear mission and values

As managers help team members understand how they fit and why they matter, they are able to nurture a workforce that has a genuine interest in contributing to the team and organization’s success.

What Causes Low Morale?

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace but left unaddressed can lead to low morale. While conflict is one of the most prevalent contributors to low morale, there are other driving factors that can cause low morale:

  • Poor communication: If employees do not understand what is expected of them or have the information they need to feel connected, this lack of clarity and communication can create distrust and low morale. A lack of feedback can further diminish morale.
  • Feelings of unimportance: Team members who do not feel valued or understand how their roles fit within the organization may feel unimportant or as though they cannot reach their full potential.
  • Lack of growth opportunities: If team members are not given opportunities to grow, learn, and advance in the organization and their careers, they will likely feel unfulfilled and unmotivated.
  • Work/Life Balance: Working long or demanding hours on a regular basis can cause burnout and job dissatisfaction. Most employees prioritize and value a work/life balance.

How Do You Rebuild Team Morale & Motivation?

Making an effort to improve morale and unleash motivation will have a significant impact on the team and company’s results. Here are three ways a manager can build or rebuild team morale and motivation.

Offer Recognition

Recognition plays a critical role in helping employees feel valued—over half of employees want more of it from their direct managers. Not to mention, recognition can reduce turnover by 31 percent.

Some non-monetary recognition ideas include:

  • Acknowledging a team member’s success in a company email or meeting. Highlighting someone in front of their peers can be a rewarding way to illuminate the value your team member contributes. If your employee is not the type of person who feels comfortable being in the spotlight, you can consider giving them a written thank you card or taking the time to say thanks in person.
  • Offering an afternoon off. If your team member has had a difficult week filled with high-priority obligations, giving them some time off is an excellent way to show your appreciation. This gives your team member an opportunity to take some extra, guilt-free time off and recharge.

Offer Flexibility

Offering flexible options to team members can build trust and allow them to contribute in ways that optimize their overall effectiveness.

You can achieve this by offering:

  • Flexible work schedules: Family and health obligations can make sticking to a strict 9 to 5 work day challenging. Offering employees the flexibility to manage their own work schedules can provide greater support for work-life balance and cater to the unique needs they have.
  • Reasonable work hours: Providing reasonable work hours can prevent burnout and encourage consistent productivity. For example, one study examined employees working an average of 42 hours per week versus another team working an average of 28 hours. The latter group was “more productive by 70 percent.”
  • Fewer scheduled commitments: Ineffective meetings can reduce productivity and have an impact on team member attitudes. Ensuring there is enough time for focused work communicates to team members that you respect their time. Consider reducing the number or length of meetings to what is truly necessary.

Offer Meaningful Work

Oftentimes, it’s not simply about the role someone is given but the type of work they are engaged in. Finding a sense of purpose at work plays a major role in encouraging emotional and mental stimulation and satisfaction in team members. Purpose is what helps employees stay invested and driven to optimize their performance.

Research shows:

  • More than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to reduce their earnings in exchange for more purposeful work.
  • When employees are given meaningful work, this can add up to more than $9,000 in productivity per worker every year.

Since people have different perspectives, concerns, and priorities for their careers, it’s crucial for a leader to take the time to understand what each team member needs to maximize their success. Consider initiating these conversations as you meet with team members in one-on-one situations. Let them know that their success is important to you and collaborate on what can and can’t be done to provide the most meaningful work and growth opportunities.

Bring It All Together

Morale and motivation are crucial components of a healthy, productive workplace. The value a strong workplace creates is worth whatever resources are necessary to boost morale and unleash motivation.

Using these low-cost tips will make an impact without breaking the bank. Don’t neglect the opportunity to invest in your team members and workplace today.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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