The Truth About Morale

The Truth About Morale

Have you ever heard, thought to yourself, or even said, “morale around here just sucks”? I have. I have heard it multiple times during my 40 plus years in healthcare. I have heard it in many different forms and in many different places. The words may vary slightly but the intent is very clear.

Today, let’s gain some clarity about the ownership of morale within our healthcare system. Perhaps you can visualize some of these ideas and examples in your department.

Here is the definition of morale according to Webster dictionary: morale: “the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand.”

Notice the definition includes individual or a group.

The bottom line is that WE ALL OWN THE MORALE! Yes, we do. I do and you do too.

Many have come to believe that the morale is solely the responsibility of leadership within our healthcare systems. I do agree with this in that leadership steers the ship, yet is not exclusively responsible for each individual’s morale.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Leadership is in your ACTIONS not your POSITION”.

Some of us are leaders of teams and some are in the position of leading ourselves. Being in charge of personal morale is all our individual responsibility.

Leaders inspire high morale when they:
  • are clear in communication and expectations
  • actively listen to the members of their teams and take action to address the concerns that are brought to us
  • recognize, reward and incentivize our team
  • create flexible work flows/scheduling opportunities
  • allow choice and honor autonomy within the job role
  • progress through growth and goal setting to move the department forward
  • hold their team to a high level of accountability for conduct and overall performance

Remember, regardless of your leader’s impact on morale, it is non-negotiable that WE ARE ALL KEEPERS of the CULTURE! Each of us gets to decide how we are going to show up every single day. Our daily choices impact the morale of our department.

One question to reflect on every day is… “am I a part of the solution or am I a part of the problem”?
Other questions to reflect on:
  • How am I contributing to the morale of my department and overall healthcare organization?
  • How am I choosing to show up right now? What impact does this choice have on my team? On our team morale?
  • Am I choosing to have a voice and implementing action toward the challenges and concerns or am I stirring the pot behind the scenes by complaining, bitching or moaning?
  • What am I doing every day to make this department the best it can be?
  • How can I be positively impactful to our shared culture?


Morale is also driven by the chosen attitude. Questions to reflect on:
  • What attitude do I bring to the work environment?
  • Am I supporting my colleagues? Do I throw my colleagues under the bus?
  • Do I step into potential conflicts or do I run away?
  • Am I speaking up when others on the unit are disruptive, disrespectful, demeaning or engaged in disruptive behaviors?
  • How is my attitude affecting my team? Positively? Or negatively?

The fundamental truth is that WE ALL OWN MORALE. Every one of us contributes to the morale in how we show up in every moment of every day. Step forward and take accountability for your contribution. What change do you want to see in yourself based on the answers to the self-reflective questions above?

First and foremost, acknowledge the current impact that you are making and keep doing the positive things you do that contribute to the culture and overall morale of the department.

The challenge before you is to always be a part of the morale solution instead of part of the problem. What impact will you choose to have on morale today and every day going forward?


Contact me:

Cella Hartline Cella Janisch-Hartline, RN, BSN, PCC, Certified Professional Coach, Nursing Leadership Senior Manager for Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative has been involved in various healthcare industry leadership positions for the past 40 years. The majority of her career has been spent working in an acute care critical access facility for nearly 25 years. Throughout her work experience, she has learned most of her leadership skills and techniques through the school of “hard knocks”. Cella’s passion for teaching leadership tips and techniques earned her the 2018 Outstanding Educator Award through the National Rural Health Association. She is well-known for her humorous, engaging and personable facilitation style.
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