low team morale

5 Quiet Signs Low Morale Has Hit Your Customer Support Team

Laurah MwirichiaLast updated on January 2, 2024
7 min

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Keeping employees motivated takes effort and practice. Although it may be hard to spot, and even harder to quantify, low morale can trip up even the hardest working teams. This is a serious issue in Customer Service and Support teams that rely heavily on teamwork to keep customers happy.

While it’s common to have one or two team members experience a bout of decreased motivation, the long-term effects can cascade and wreak havoc on employee morale and grind productivity to a screeching halt.

So, how do you improve employee morale and motivation? Spotting the early signs creeping in can give you, as a Customer Support Manager, the ability to address issues quickly and reverse the trend before it escalates further.

Low Morale Indicator #1: Lack of Initiative

A team member who is doing the bare minimum to get by and has stopped taking pride or initiative in their work is one of the first indicators of low employee engagement.

Probable cause: Unhappy in present position and/or with current responsibilities.

We all want to come to a workplace that makes us feel like we’re contributing value to projects that matter. Employee engagement drops when people don’t feel challenged or appreciated in their position, causing them to lose the motivation to keep going.

Addressing the situation

Make room for meaningful conversations

Instead of only having discussions about their current workload, consider talking about things that go beyond their role. Find out what needs they have in the workplace that are not being met.

Do they feel like they are ready for more responsibility but are not given the chance? Do they want to be part of a workgroup or initiative, but don’t feel empowered to participate?

Letting them know that their voice is heard and acknowledged in the organization goes a long way in starting to solve the problem of low morale.

Find out their career goals

When so much of your time is spent getting to know the customers, employee priorities are sometimes forgotten along the way. Learning their hopes and dreams and what they want to accomplish in the workplace is important to boosting morale. If an employee was motivated in the past but seems to have lost that “spark,” it could be because they don’t feel that there is room to grow.

Help them find new ways to challenge and stretch their skills — even if that cannot include a change of position at the time.  Asking questions like “What can I do to help you develop the skills you need for your next steps?” shows that they’re not just a warm body in a seat, but a human being with unique ambitions.

Low Morale Indicator #2: Rumor Mills

Rumors are a quick and efficient way to break down trust and make people feel lost and unappreciated. If you’ve recently been hearing gossip around the office, there could be a full-blown morale crisis lurking around the corner. Because while total transparency carries its own risks, leaving employees to fill in too many of the blanks often spreads hearsay and misinformation.

Probable cause: Ineffective Communication

When the truth is obscured, and transparency is something that “higher-ups” in the organization take for granted, employee morale is always at risk. A lack of communication not only fails to transmit important information, but it also leaves employees feeling unappreciated and out of the loop.

Addressing the situation

Increase Communication

We’ve all heard the saying that a lie can spread halfway around the world before truth has a chance to put its shoes on. This goes double for gossip. Being honest with employees, even when it’s hard, is one of the best ways to build trust and morale. Whether you’re planning on switching to new helpdesk software or have incoming product changes, keeping people in the loop is vital. When they know that you’re not avoiding topics, or worse, lying, they’re much more likely to open up to you.

Low Morale Indicator #3: Increased Pessimism

Not everyone is the happy-go-lucky, always positive employee who sees the best in all things. It takes all types, including more subdued personalities, to create a healthy workplace culture. However, making sure to keep an eye out for those shifts that go from a professional detachment to pure cynicism is important. An employee that used to be excited about their projects, can start to seem distant and negative…and often, that attitude spreads.

Probable cause: A Few Vocal Critics

Addressing the situation

Build Trust and Appreciation

One disgruntled staff member is a morale risk, but an entire group of disengaged employees is a business threat. Stopping negativity in its tracks is key to keeping morale high in your work environment. It can be hard to keep a positive attitude going after a few angry customer calls or high-traffic shifts. However, positivity represents more than just a bubbly personality.

It means taking the time to show employees that they are appreciated and valued. Negativity can easily stem from your employees feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and like they’re not recognized for their contributions.

Tackle Bullying

Although your business is no longer a middle school (most likely…), it may start to feel like it, if there is a workplace culture of negativity and low morale. Bullying and harassment are real problems that can affect the workplace and can cause a severe drop in morale (not to mention potential legal action if not addressed). Have conversations with your staff to see how comfortable they are at work. Check in with them to let them know that you are on their side and want them to have a safe and healthy work environment.

Low Morale Indicator #4: Increased absenteeism

We all have lives outside of work, so having to leave the office early, or take a few days here and there is perfectly understandable. However, when an employee is consistently missing scheduled work there’s usually a reason.

Having many unexplained days away from work can negatively impact their colleagues as well. Not only does it unexpectedly keep adding on the workload of the rest of support team, but it can also cause resentment with other employees as well.

Probable cause: Disrupted Work/Life Balance

Addressing the situation

Understand Individual Circumstances

Having a close but professional relationship with each team member is one of the best ways to start improving employee morale before concerning issues creep up.

Have an honest conversation with your team member and inform them that you have noticed that they have been missing a lot of days lately. Go the extra mile to reach out and find out what the cause is. Maybe they’ve started a new class on the weekend, or are taking care of an ill family member.

Even creating the space to discuss these matters will help them feel like more than a set of productivity reports. And allowing some flexibility is sure to motivate employees and heighten morale rather than decrease it.

Low Morale Indicator #5: Missed deadlines

Missing deadlines or completely forgetting work responsibilities is a clear sign that morale may be on the decline. What’s worse, declining team performance could cause managers to institute stricter monitoring measures that end up further damaging team morale.

Probable cause: Unclear or Unrealistic Expectations

Addressing the situation

Set clear expectations

Goal setting is one of the best ways to motivate your staff to continue to improve and grow. However, setting unattainable targets will only be a recipe for reduced motivation and morale. Learning to set SMART goals is key to having a motivated and functional customer service and support team. Make sure that the goals are clear, measurable, and achievable.

Always involve employees when making individual goals, and the team when making team goals. A quick way to demoralize your support team is putting pressure on them to meet metrics that they feel are unattainable. That’s not to say you shouldn’t challenge your team, but nobody is motivated by goals they have no realistic hope of achieving. Getting buy-in from your employees is important. A lack of agreement means little commitment to the goals, drastic dips in morale, and eventual burnout.

Reversing Low Morale

Low morale can have many causes but the symptoms are recognizable and often treatable if addressed early. Finding a way to boost team morale can be one of the hardest things that a customer service manager has to overcome. However, refusing to deal with this issue head-on can trigger a vicious cycle of missed metrics, decreased engagement, and increased turnover. Creating an environment of open communication, clear expectations, and appreciation will go a long way to help preserve the well-being of your customer support squad.

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Published on January 15, 2019.

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