Addressing a Problem of Employee Morale

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By Everett K. Ward, Jr.

After two hurricane disasters a morale problem existed among the employees of the Town of Wrightsville Beach. The problem extended across departmental lines and included the fire department. It was determined that stress symptoms extended beyond those associated with the two disasters and were dormant in the workforce prior to and after the disaster events.

The purpose of this research was to identify stress factors within the employee ranks, review select concepts of leadership and associated subjects, and make recommendations to alleviate the impact of stress factors in the workforce. An action research methodology was utilized.

Research questions that were answered were:

  1. What is wrong?
  2. What does literature offer to address the problem?
  3. What action can be taken?
  4. What is the expected outcome?

Procedures included employee stress assessments and evaluations. An action plan to improve the workplace environment for the town body was derived following the initiation of a key mission statement. The fire department created its own action plan including a series of employee group sessions identifying specific factors of communication, trust, respect, and teamwork. An in-house correspondence study on leadership was initiated. Surveys were taken to measure success rates. Literature was reviewed that was central to the identified issues. Expected outcomes relative to the survey, observations, and action plans were evaluated and recorded. The result of the research indicated that efforts both town-wide and in the fire department were effecting a positive change to improve the workplace environment. Recommendations call for continuation of the action plans and further evaluation. Leadership training that will include concepts of followership and its meaning to the organization is also needed.