Sometimes Leaders Must Choose Between Mission and Morale


Wednesday morning, an employee said to his manager, “I need to take Thursday and Friday off.”

“Why?” the manager asked.

“My parents are passing through on their way to Colorado.  They want to spend a couple of days with us.”

“I can’t let you off this week.  You got to finish your cost estimates by Friday.”

“I’ve got most of the work done.  Someone else can complete it.”

“I don’t have anyone else.  You’ll have to work Thursday and Friday.”

Almost two thirds of the supervisors I survey say that morale is more important than performance.  I agree that employee morale is very important.  However, there are times when leaders must choose between morale and mission.

Unless the employee situation is extraordinary–an unexpected illness of a family member for example–I suggest that leaders prioritize mission.

By denying the employee’s request, the leader chose mission over morale.  The employee fumed and complained bitterly to his peers, but he did stay and complete his project.

To avoid permanent morale loss, the leader will need to find some way in the coming weeks to reward the employee for his sacrifice.  While leaders can survive short-term morale dips, few can successfully cope with long-term, low morale.

What do you think?

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