6 Critical Components of M-O-R-A-L-E

This is a working blog. It’s not funny or cute. It’s just content that we all need to think about, talk about, and act upon.

So let’s get to work!

What level of morale exists in your organization today?

Choose an adjective:





Which word did you select?

Simply put, morale is the vital sign that tells us how healthy our organization is—or not.

Healthy organizational morale allows us to find joy in our work, collaborate with colleagues, be more creative and productive, accomplish increasingly greater goals, and have fun. Yes, fun … at work.

But what impacts morale? What shapes it?

We’ll use an acrostic (vertical word) to show six critical components of M-O-R-A-L-E:

Management: Two thoughts. First, have your managers been trained in people management skills or were they promoted because they were technically proficient? We wouldn’t expect an outstanding nurse to be elevated to surgeon or a legal secretary to become an attorney without training. So let’s stop dubbing individual contributors as “the boss” without formal people management skills training. When organizations invest in managers, they invest in everyone.

Secondly, management must accept accountability for an organization’s culture.

Management, if morale is poor—it’s your fault.

Opportunity: People must feel there is an opportunity to learn and grow. Yes, some don’t care to, but most humans want “continuous improvement” as part of their life. If there isn’t opportunity to be challenged, people will live for Fridays. Normal folks might love Fridays, but those in “dead end” jobs live for Fridays—and that’s a terrible way to exist.

Know this: Opportunity equals excitement. 

Realism: Morale is always healthier when a realistic view of the world dominates. Let’s stop masking problems by calling them “situations” and “challenges.” Adults want to know the score—and they can handle it. We’re born problem solvers, but we cannot solve a problem we don’t know about or, even worse, aren’t allowed to discuss.

Management: Speak plainly and not in code. Be real.

Accountability: Blaming, whining, complaining, and procrastinating are not only symptoms of lousy morale, these behaviors lower morale. They are contagious and destructive. The more people gripe, play the victim, and point fingers, the worse everything gets. Keep organizational morale high by working hard to make personal accountability a core value.

Here’s how organizations do that.

Leadership: Taught, sought, and sometimes caught, the always hot topic of leadership is vastly misunderstood. It’s never about title or tenure, and it’s way more than the fad-driven mantra of “having a vision.” The key is to recognize leadership can and should exist at all levels. The last thing we need is people sans management titles whispering, “When are they gonna tell us what’s going on?” and whining, “Why are they doing this to us?” Leadership at all levels means acknowledging that everyone influences someone.

Truth: Through our actions, we each have a hand in shaping morale.

Excellence: Organizations with outstanding morale employ people who beam when they produce a result, whether it’s an output used by another department or a product the paying consumer holds in their hands. To be proud of one’s work is to be able to say, with chin held high, “I made that!” When people strive for—and achieve—excellence, there will be pride. And this is not the infamous pride that “goeth before a fall.” This is the right kind of pride.


There you go, six critical components of morale. Each worth exploring, but best explored with others. So forward this blog to your team, staff, or colleagues—and get to work making your organization’s morale even better than it is now!

Discussion questions:

What level of morale exists in our organization today?

(See the 4 adjectives at the top of this blog)

Regarding the 6 “morale” components, where are we strong? Where are we weak and how can we improve?

Please leave your comments below!

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4 Responses

  1. Hi John i attended a QBQ! seminar in fort Collins, CO a few years ago I am now married and living in Sacramento California and working for a school district that has been around for only seven years they could really use QBQ! morale is so low it would have to improve to be poor. I rate 5 of the 6 as very low to non-existent.

  2. John, thank you for the reminder of the power of words and actions. We can either: kill self-esteem and empowerment, steal productivity and time and destroy trust and momentum.
    We can build each other up. We can appreciate that each of us has strengths that make us naturally inclined to be outstanding in a dimension of our work. We can take the momentum from wins to strive ahead to accomplish less desirable projects. Then, if morale is brought down, the person(s) affected is equipped to stop a further decline and bounce back- just like I did today.

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