An Unseen Culprit Draining Workplace Morale

Do you dread going to work? Given a myriad of research findings in low employee engagement, disenchantment with pay for underperforming executives, even absence of employee passion for their work, it’s not hard to conclude employees dread their workplace.

Dread is an unseen culprit draining workplace morale.

What a disturbing sight: an army of talented, bright employees arriving to work dreading the day’s activities. Even managers who focus on profit before people must be rattled: employees’ productivity takes a hit before the work day begins.

Psychologist and neuroscientist, Tali Sharot explains that we become anxious when we anticipate something coming that we dread. It’s not surprising that the anticipation of something dreadful has a negative affect on our health.*

Extrapolate out the affects of dread. Think about the impact on employee turnover. What about happiness? Productivity? Though I’ve not researched it, I wonder what the relationship between dread and engagement or passion might be?

As managers, we’ve got to be vigilant about this. Creating a great work environment is on our watch. As managers we have the greatest influence on employees’ work environment. If employees dread coming to work over things we can influence, then it’s our responsibility to resolve the breakdown.

*(If you find this topic of dread interesting then read Sharot’s book, The Optimism Bias. A fascinating book filled with terrific examples on how our brain is wired for optimism, or not.)


Art by  Tyler

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Jon Mertz

    Sounds like an interesting book, Shawn. I like your post, because you are right: “Creating a great work environment is on our watch.”

    It is our responsibility to lead in a way that creates an environment to inspire people to use their talents and team members feel responsible in adding to this environment.

    Solid reminders…. Thanks. Jon

  • Ben Simonton (@BenSimonton)


    Good issue. Manager are creating a lot of damaged people who suffer from anxiety, depression, stress and the like. They don’t need to keep doing that and the condition of their workforce is totally within their control to change.

    Sadly, executives and managers don’t know what they must do each day to create a highly motivated, highly committed, and fully engaged workforce literally loving to come to work and at least 300% more productive than if disengaged. The essence is to listen to their employees and respond to them to their satisfaction or better by giving them what they say they need to do a better job. The responsibility of the workforce is to decide what to do and how to do it and then do it. The responsibility of management is to provide them with whatever they need to do that at a very high standard whether it is training, tools, discipline, or whatever.

    I know because I have created highly performing workforces who loved to come to work more than once and I learned how to create the problems you cite and how to fix them. It is actually quite simple to learn. There are good reasons why particular actions fail while others succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

    Best regards, Ben
    Leadership is a science and so is engagement

  • @michpoko

    I, too, appreciate the book reference. There is a good deal of work by Barbara Fredrickson and others on the power and impact of positive experiences and emotion, including linkage to greater intellectual, physical, social and psychological resources. I would speculate that essentially opposite feelings, such as dread, would have essentially opposite results. And as we know, emotions are contagious.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Ben,
    Sheesh, we do make things more difficult than need be, right? But as I like to say the simple can be the most difficult to see.
    Certainly old paradigms block managers from seeing how their role and the expectations from employees of their bosses has changed.

    We need leaders like you to help guide the way.


  • Shawn Murphy

    Cool. Thanks, Michelle for the recommendation. I checked out her book on Amazon and see that her book is recommended alongside some of my favorite authors whose writing is in the realm of positive psychology: Csikszentmihalyi, Seligman.

    Be well,

  • Shawn Murphy

    We do love your support. Hope things are good on your side.

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