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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Who Causes Poor Morale?

Published January 30, 2011 9:03 PM by Sharlene George

(Editor's Note: This guest blog written by Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP), originally appeared at  

In a lab of 20 employees, three care enough to pick up the slack, five work hard to yank it away, and twelve just hope another job comes along. Everyone’s frustration is compounded by knowing that people at the top don’t care about them, don’t want them to do well, and don’t listen to what people say in the community.

On the list of what keeps employees engaged with the company, the relationship with a direct supervisor ranked ninth, while the senior management's interest in employee well-being, employee training and the organization's reputation for social responsibility scored first. second and third, respectively.

So writes Ann Besler of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in reporting the results of a workers survey. “Engaged” employees -- those who give a hoot about what really happens to the company -- count about 3 in 20. One in four don’t care at all. “Want to fix morale in the company? Fix the boss,” she writes.

Even if your lab is the best and your manager is great, it won’t matter if Le Grand Fromage stinks like Limburger. It’ll wear you down.


Great people leave. Not just that -- they vanish. It becomes harder to attract good applicants and travellers. Mediocrity promoted as greatness fools nobody. New hires wanting a paycheck quickly learn it’s a survival culture.

Other departments feel worse. Trickle-down dribbles everywhere; even if your lab is motivated and professional, other departments aren’t. At least one is working against your success.

Some employees are bullet-proof. If senior leadership doesn’t walk the walk, some people do as they please. Incompetent managers are promoted. This demoralizes everybody, including good middle managers.

Success is always out of reach. I doubt anyone thrives in a toxic environment. People want to succeed. They want to work in a place with a great reputation. No one is proud of “Our lab is okay, but (fill in the blank) sucks.”

Eventually, patients learn not to trust or recommend your organization. They go around you, stay away, or don’t come back.

Too harsh? I wonder, you tell me.


When I enter a new facility, I can judge the facility leadership with in 5 minutes. Staff who ask me how they can make my visit more productive (where do you need to go?, can I ask someone to show you?) and smile inform me they want to impress me with how glad they are to be right there at that exact moment. Staff who only acknowledge me when I initiate contact inform me their leadership is sub-standard. Low-level workers who seem startled when I acknowledge them indicate poor leadership. Those who are prepared to return a smile indicate management who care.

I am in all sized hospitals. In many small 'podunk' hospitals, I see care that is absolutely the finest possible anywhere. In other, larger, hospitals I see staff I would not want watering my lawn and know their managers care little about them. A glistening worn-out floor indicates a group who want to make the best of what they have.  

Kenny Kellar February 1, 2011 4:12 PM

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