Morale and Motivation in the Workplace

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on November 1, 2021

Woman using laptop

Employee motivation and morale are two vital, interdependent elements of the employee experience. To improve one is to improve them both. Start by understanding the difference between them and how they combine to create a more productive workplace.


Motivation is found with an individual and based on their personal values, beliefs, and aspirations. Motivation is goal oriented. It  gives an employee the ability and desire to focus on the work they do and strive for their own success.

Motivation is an intrinsic element of who a worker is, but each employee’s level of motivation can be increased by external drivers, such as recognition for an achievement or a monetary reward. In the workplace, motivation is the level of commitment and energy an employee brings to their job.


Morale is associated with emotional and mental well-being; it creates and reflects the general “mood” of a workplace. In general, it applies more to groups than individuals. Teams that operate with high morale are positive, passionate, enthused, and engaged. They are confident, show up with a sense of purpose, and routinely report high levels of job satisfaction.

Low workplace morale decreases employee motivation, engagement, and interest in their work. Disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars every year. But businesses with higher levels of morale, report higher production numbers, better attendance and retention, a more positive reputation, and more successful recruiting programs.

In short, team morale influences employee motivation and, in some cases, vice versa. Managers and team leaders who monitor their teams for signs of low motivation or morale can implement positive changes to turn things around.

Man working near window

Why so low?

Workplaces are dynamic and fluid environments, and morale and motivation reflect the nature of workplace changes. While poor leadership is one leading cause of poor morale, other factors also contribute to uncertainty, dissatisfaction, and a negative workplace dynamic. Unclear expectations, lack of incentive, little to no recognition, and excessive criticism or punishment all add extra weight to morale and motivation issues.

And as so recently revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, dramatic changes and workplace disruptions cause heightened uncertainty and insecurity — and lower both workplace morale and individual employee motivation.

Recognizing the signs

How will you recognize the signs of low motivation and morale? Pay attention to employee interactions. A persistent negative attitude indicates frustration or discouragement. Limited interest or commitment to new projects and disinterest in company goals are all indicative of a problem leadership needs to address.

Poor work performance or decreasing quality of work — missed deadlines, lower efficiency, waning enthusiasm — signal a need to retrench and make plans for resolving morale and motivation problems.

Conference table meeting

Motivate to lift morale

Boosting motivation is key to improving morale. Steps to increasing your employees’ motivation include:

  • Setting realistic goals for achievement. Workers should understand their target goals and how they fit into the company’s vision for success.
  • Recognizing employee contributions. Employees are more motivated when they know their managers and leaders appreciate their work.
  • Making training and career development easily accessible. Offer relevant training and ongoing professional development opportunities for all employees.
  • Demonstrating trust. Allow teams and individual employees with a proven history of success to work independently. Avoid micromanagement and offer constructive feedback with a nonconfrontational approach.

Lift morale to boost motivation

Any process designed to improve morale will overlap with motivational efforts. Each will enhance the other, but there are specific areas to focus on in your efforts to lift morale. These include:

  • Transparency. Workers are most engaged when leaders provide them with frequent updates about goals, progress, and changes in the workplace.
  • Celebration. Recognize and celebrate workplace achievements and encourage other celebrations and employee bonding opportunities as well.
  • Work-life balance. Overworked employees are less productive than those who enjoy adequate personal time. Let your employees know you prioritize their health.
  • Open communication. Ensure employees feel safe discussing concerns and problems with leadership. A secure workplace, with open communication and constructive feedback, is essential to high morale.

Morale and motivation are interdependent and critical to a healthy work environment and employee productivity. For more information on boosting motivation and lifting morale in the workplace, visit

Categories: Employee Engagement Ideas

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