Morale: definitions, dimensions and measurement

Hardy, Ben (2010-04-13)


Morale is a commonly used term both in business and society but the concept of morale is relatively poorly defined and understood. In a recent paper Liefooghe et al. (2004) expressed surprise that ‘…when reviewing the literature, no strong theory to explain morale as such is in evidence, nor are there many empirical studies that offer solid ground to advise organisations…’(p 1). This thesis aims to provide these theories and this empirical evidence in order to produce a better understanding of morale. This research identifies a number of deficiencies in the current understanding of morale. These range from elision with other concepts to disagreement about whether it is an individual or group phenomenon. In this study, four principal domains are examined: (i) what morale is; (ii) how it differs from other concepts; (iii) the antecedents of morale and (iv) its consequences. A mixed methods approach was adopted combining idiographic and nomothetic research. The idiographic phase of the research adopted a Straussian (1998) grounded theory approach, involving data collection from seven different organisations. The data was accrued from a combination of site visits, informal contacts, external research, and 203 semi-structured interviews which were supplemented with psychometric instruments. The data were then coded and analysed. Morale could be readily differentiated from other concepts and emerged as a phenomenon with three dimensions: affective, future/goal and interpersonal. It was also viewed as a single phenomenon which was generalisable across situations and rooted in the individual although perceived members of the group exerted considerable influence. The antecedents of morale impacted on the three dimensions outlined above. Its consequences were the zeal with which tasks are undertaken, creativity and engagement. The nomothetic element of the research developed a number of measurement scales, grounded in the qualitative phase. These allowed morale to be differentiated from other phenomena and offered insights into individual and group perceptions of morale and the influence of personality variables. Further quantitative research confirmed the three dimensional structure of the concept. The results of these two phases were then integrated to provide a picture of the phenomenon of morale, differentiate it from other concepts and elucidate its antecedents and consequences. An appraisal of the limitations of the research is also made. Finally the implications of this research for both academic researchers and practitioners are discussed along with suggestions for future research.