Low Morale? Here’s What HR Thinks You Want

juan-pablo-galavisWe had a lively monthly meeting yesterday at my local SHRM chapter gathering.  Two teams of 5 were formed – consisting of 4 students from each of our local SHRM student chapters (Louisiana State University and Southern University) plus 1 HR professional.  The teams faced off against each other, Family Feud style, answering with the “most popular answers” in order to win glory, prizes and bragging rights.  Approximately 2 weeks before the meeting, local HR professionals/chapter members were surveyed to gather the top 100 answers to questions including “Most Common Reasons Employees Give for Missing Work” and “Things Candidates Should Not Wear to a Professional Job Interview” (flips flops – shocker! – came in as #1 for that one).

And then we got to “Name a Way to Boost Employee Morale.”  The top ways, as listed by local HR professionals, were:

  • Recognition/Rewards/Appreciation: 28
  • Parties/Company Events: 18
  • Lunch/Picnic: 18
  • Vacation/PTO/Flex Time: 10

What?  No Casual Friday? Cake on your birthday? Employee of the Month parking spot?



Do you know why morale is low at your company?

It’s because your employees are underpaid, overworked, and have no power.

It’s because they aren’t trusted to make decisions.

It’s because you courted them with promises of champagne and endless sunsets and now withhold your love like you’re Juan Pablo at the final rose ceremony.

It’s because you expect your professional, exempt, high-potential employees to sit with their butts-in-chairs in the office even though they could accomplish their work, probably more efficiently, from home or their neighborhood CC’s Coffeehouse.

It’s because you’re inflexible and enjoy pointing to rules and policies as the answer to every query of “why?”

It’s because your Assistant Supervisor of Quality Input Operations was promoted, received no training on how to manage people, and is a total jackhole who rules by fear and intimidation.

It’s because you don’t realize the world of work has changed dramatically since 2001 2011.

It’s because you, Ms/Mr HR Manager, continue to embrace the Human Resources model born from the industrial-age even though we’re living in the social-technology-EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE age.


So yeah.  Go and solve that morale problem by hosting a potluck and throwing a picnic.

And then wonder why you can’t get anyone to have a different view of what HR is all about.

(Photo : The Bachelor – Facebook) The Bachelor.


  1. Dorothy Douglass says:

    Hi Robin – I think you are amazing, but I’m not sure you didn’t just set back HR by about 20 years with this blog. I get the cynicism, from what the SHRM chapter noted, but is this more of a coaching opportunity for you – which I am confident you did – for those folks in the audience? And for the students so they don’t (continue?) to go down that path? I think 28 respondents got it right – in our world, employees report that they would like more feedback, more praise, and we are coaching our managers all the time to talk to the employees. It’s not rocket science, & yet, is hard for us who “preach it,” to get others to try it out. .

    • Robin Schooling says:

      Dorothy – as we know, pushing the buttons (even of the entire HR profession) is one way to at least get the conversation started – which is what I want us to do. Did “everyone” choose picnic/parties as the “best way to improve morale?” Of course not – but a fair number did. And I think they need to have it pointed out to them some of the foolishness of going down that path as a solution to a much larger issue in their organizations. I WAS pleased at the “top” answer – recognition/rewards/appreciation – when done right, in alignment with organizational strategies and something that is truly meaningful, it IS the best way.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Kat says:

    Agreed with Dorothy. I’m over the snarky articles (essentially) trashing the entire field of professionals

    • Robin Schooling says:

      Kat – thanks for joining the conversation. As I pointed out to Dorothy – snarking, pointing out the errors of our ways and ok – ‘castigating’ – the entire profession is, quite often, one way to get people’s attention and at least HAVE some of these conversations. If we don’t question our collective, ahem, “wisdom’ around some of these issues we are doomed to continue down the same old path without REALLY looking at what we can do better.

      • Kat says:

        I hear you…and I am with you on questioning the collective wisdom. I wonder how effective this caustic message is in reaching people. I’m sure you have people’s attention, but at what cost (i.e., sacrificing others willingness to hear what you have to say)?

        • Kyle Jones says:

          Kat, I don’t think anyone should lose willingness to hear what someone has to say based solely off one post they may not agree with 100%. This would be different should someone read a blog and disagree with 8 or 9 out of 10 posts. If that was the case, then the blog may not be for them.

          My opinion is: I like that this post challenges the collective wisdom. If someone didn’t challenge “the way it has always been done” we might still be personnel clerks typing away on a typewriter and answering rotary phones. Questioning brings change.

          My comment isn’t to disagree with your own but to say that I think it is OK to have different opinions.

  3. Steve Levy says:

    Dorothy, HR is doing a fine job of sliding back down the hill without the assistance of Robin. Far too many in HR are like heads of career services at university who continue to peddle “industrial age wisdom” about people and organizations the way career services “experts” who prepare students for inane questions like Strengths and Weaknesses, while telling these students their resumes must have Objectives on them.

    Sorry to break it to you HR but you might hear but you’re not listening, and if you can’t get your CEO to do the things to their subordinates that their employees want from their bosses, then you are impotent.

    BTW, I’m wearing flip flops today…

    • Robin Schooling says:

      Amen Steve, Amen!

      HR professionals are the product of their environment and their training/experience (i.e. traditional industrial-age HR pro ‘teaches’ newbie HR pro – so the cycle continues). In addition, they have to live up to the expectations of the CEO who has hired them; if the CEO believes “let’s throw a picnic and hand out coffee mugs with the company logo to keep people happy”, well then THAT’s what the HRD does.

      The point of any of these discussions, however, is to show that HR folks who dive deep and UNDERSTAND what employees want at work should be able to provide that information – and then INFLUENCE – the change in the thinking of their leadership teams. It’s tough work – no one ever said it will be easy. But I want us all to strive to do it.

    • John says:

      Wait, What? Why take a shot a University Career Services?

  4. To quote a very smart lady: “The stronger you react to feedback, the more accurate it is.”

  5. Tera says:

    Considering that most HR professionals seek to address employee morale by conducting annual satisfaction surveys, maybe the HR professionals that participated in the SHRM study were echoing the top responses from their satisfaction survey results. The problem many times is that employees do not communicate clearly what their desires are even when asked directly. So I urge you to consider that it may not be the HR professionals that are out of touch; employees so often fail to take any responsibility to ensure their own happiness in the employment relationship. Communication is a two way street and as an employee, I know that my actions can be the spring board to my own happiness or misery. If I fail to participate in opportunities to express my concerns, then I am just as much a participant in my unhappiness, if not more so. All of the HR professionals that I know work very hard to learn the desires of their employment population. If employees want their voices to be heard, then they need to take advantage of the opportunities to speak. Employees should step up and take some responsibility for their own happiness.

  6. hrdramaqueen says:

    Self-absorbed, stereotyping jerks like you, who think you are soooo clever in enlightening us by pointing out the obvious, do no one any favors. Kiss my HR a**.

  7. Kyle Jones says:

    First, let me say that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Robin for a while now and a “self-absorbed, stereotyping jerk” she is not. I find it quite sad that the negative comments posted on this site were made by, I’m sure, great people who simply may have missed the message of what is being delivered. The point is simple – sometimes anyone in any profession must take a moment to step back and evaluate what they do. They must take an honest review of what they do and challenge themselves to make changes to those areas in need of change.

    I will probably and most likely generate negative comments by my own comment but I must ask: If anyone finds this so offensive or cannot see the message for what it is, could it be that you need to evaluate your own HR role and/or organization?

  8. NoelieTREX says:

    I want atmosphere! I have enough money at my job, but I don’t like the “we refuse to change or move forward” old policies that people are clinging to. Being in marketing, having to sit within earshot of accounting is sooooo not working. My main request of HR is to see that listening to all the finance talk is draining and soul crushing- the marketing team needs creative space! Stuffy, outdated work clothes, penny-pinching reports, gross microwave lunches, the slow-paced environment that can’t understand why quality is expensive and updates should be constant are killer! Fast-paced, beer keg, jeans, floor-to-celing idea boards, music, cool co-workers and conversation that doesn’t start with “5000 years ago when I was relevant…” and goes more like “hey guys I have this great innovative new idea!” is what I’m looking for.

    P.S. Thanks for providing an outlet for this little rant. HR at my office will listen to whatever you’d like to say, but nothing ever changes. CHANGE- it should be constant and continuous!

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