What defines Morale?

I am bored by constant references to morale - it is good, bad , up / down or being affected.

Having looked it up I find it something to do with having confidence in ones leadership. But am sure that most people use it in relation to how people are being treated (military covenant), boots fiiting, mail getting through.

Just what are the criteria / basis upon on which a judged measurement of morale can be fairly made?
Webster defines morale as
The moral condition, or the condition in other respects, so far as it is affected by, or dependent upon, moral
considerations, such as zeal, spirit, hope, and confidence; mental state, as of a body of men, an army, and the like.
I've started with a dictionary definition as one needs the objective view. Elsewhere I find
n 1: a state of individual psychological well-being based upon a
sense of confidence and usefulness and purpose
2: the spirit of a group that makes the members want the group
to succeed [syn: esprit de corps, team spirit]
From these, I suggest that the issue of morale - whilst not wrong/missing kit, doubt as to mission etc. derives from those inas much as they upset the minds of those serving.


Success in combat? Resilience against adversity?

Morale is surely an intangible based on many factors, within a specific context. Trying to quantify morale is like trying to measure humour. Some things are just funny. The more you analyse a joke the less funny it seems. It all to do with context.

New Labour have tried to quantify success in the NHS. This has back-fired massively as managers see their primary role as meeting targets, not healing people. Trying to measure morale may lead you down the same rabbit hole.
Morale is that intangible quality that the Chain of Command is so excellent at undermining!

Good morale can be present despite poor leadership but good leadership will always enhance it.
Not sure about the team thing, but I do accept that teamwork can be a component, like the point about over analysis too. It does seem even amongst these well considered replies that we all consider it to comprise different things.
Which really brings me back to the annoyance I feel when we are told that "whilst things are a bit glum, the unit morale remains high". Often I am sure that morale is not high. Unit pride may remain, that dreadful term "brotherhood" may apply, the fact that the unit has no choice but to be happy as it has no option - being sad simply worsens the condition.
It really comes down to a general malaise, a sense of real distrust and uncertainty with the CoC (above sub unit / unit level), too many young Generals trying too hard for too few promotions and the politicising of senior positions.
Morale high generally - Nah!!!
Morale is the ability to feel that your troop / platoon / company is doing well when the rest of the world isn't doing well!
DontMentionTheWar said:
Morale is the ability to feel that your troop / platoon / company is doing well when the rest of the world isn't doing well!
OK, so is that your morale, their morale or the units morale? And what makes them feel OK?
Mr Logic is closest to the money in my mind.

Being a bit mechanistic for a moment, morale in itself is actually meaningless from a military point of view. Its only relevance is in increasing Fighting Power. Just because the chaps are happy because their boots fit means diddly, unless you can channel that emotion to your ie the military's benefit. Accordingly, the description that springs to mind is 'positive outlook' - if people have a positive outlook then you can move mountains with them (even with crap kit/rubbish food/no mail). If the general mood is negative, then you can hardly move sideways without something going wrong, no matter how good the toys & welfare are. With positive outlook, comes belief - in yourself, the team, the CoC, the mission, your chance of success etc, and a willingness to overcome; a desire to achieve. There are plenty of historical examples of this with well-motivated forces overcoming far better materially equipped ones - however, this is certainly not an excuse to ignore G1/G4 and rely on your self-assumed supposed charisma (more often actually arrogance and bluff) to inspire all those around you to achieve the aim (not that this approach is ever seen in certain British Army officers :roll: )
Good morale is born from confidence - in ones self, ones kit, ones leaders and ones mission - any of these fail and so does morale!

In a nutshell when the blokes stop joking with each other take a good look around and react fast!

End off :)

Interesting points. I like the idea that morale acn be developed through training, but can this limit the level at which morale acn be attributed. If your platoons morale is high, is the Divisions?
Morale in relation to the forces is that intangible element which can help drive the individual or the unit on through the most adverse of conditions. Although, you don’t necessarily need high morale to attempt or succeed in an endeavour. Example’s being Scott’s attempt on the pole and Shackleton’s failed expedition.

The recognition of level of morale is equally difficult to quantify. What appears to be high morale to the Commander (or the press, or even worse politicians) can be seen as strikingly low by the private soldier. Additionally the use of black humour and other coping mechanisms skew the perception of morale giving the casual observer a false impression of the level of morale.

The fragility of morale can not be underestimated. A unit could have a recognisable high level of moral or an individual could be brimming with confidence. Just one small change in the balance can knock or damage this emotion which consequentially has an effect out of all proportion to the original incident. ie the death of a comrade, down to the cancelling of leave.

However, morale itself as an emotion has no meaning in relation to the military unless it is having a positive or negative effect on the status quo. High or low morale in barracks during a peace time environment with good pay, housing and retention is not actually a major problem. Low morale combined with poor housing, pay and unpopular operations is an anchor tied to a drowning man. This is where the true effect can be quantified by measuring the level of retention, absence or even sickness.

In my experience, A well resourced, confident, fully recruited and well lead unit usually has no immediate morale problems. An SAS squadron is a perfect example. On the other hand, a unit suffering financial cuts, an uncertain future coupled with indecisive leadership will undoubtedly have major morale issues (I am sure I could think of an example if I thought hard enough)

In the end, high morale might just give the underdog the edge. Then again, close air support, lashings of napalm and the vein hope that John Prescott will choke to death on his own vomit keep a smile on my face
WF, I like the emotional connection to morale, which in many respects makes it both intangible and unmeasurable. I agree that it is afeeling, and as such something often held close. I suppose this is also the reason that poliicos prefer to say that "morale is high", as it is something that cannot factually be gainsaid?
while it is hard to actually define what morale is

a good indication of lack of morale in a Unit

is a High volume in a Units Crimes Rolls
WitchfinderGeneral said:
In my experience, A well resourced, confident, fully recruited and well lead unit usually has no immediate morale problems. An SAS squadron is a perfect example.
Fully recruited? I reckon retention must be difficult these days with so many lucrative jobs in the sandpit and so many squillionaire football club owners all willing to pay a fortune for a real life Ross Kemp (with better webbing).
Read Gen. Sir John Hackett : The Profession Of Arms (c.1970) and the complete works of the same.

Never expressed better.

Leadership ditto.

Elusive qualities, desperately hard to define. But if you can't already pick them out - like that unmistakeable elephant in the sitting-room - Shan Hackett will show you how.
Outstanding said:
Seems we are in agreement that it is a feeling within a group of people that cannot be measured. Interesting how often it apparently is!?
Much the same as any assessment of the supposedly dominant emotional feeling in a group of people. An individual can experience numerous emotional changes in a short time for no apparent reason, and in any given group of people there will be a wide variety of emotions present, yet we regularly ascribe generic emotions to groups - whether an army unit, a public gathering or even a country. It is far from unusual to try and establish the general mood of people - politicians do it all the time. Whilst a little intangible, I am sure we can all think of a group situation where there is a significant element of commonality of outlook that is more sub-conscious than conscious - hardly surprising in a highly socialised animal such as a human. Watch any other social group of animals (horses/sheep/cattle/dogs) and see how individual behaviour is highly attuned to group behaviour - essentially a pack survival mechanism. You will also see how quickly the mood can change from sometimes seemingly irrelevant external stimuli (animals getting 'spooked')- demonstrating the innate fragility of morale. So quantative measurement of morale by any realistic unit is impossible, I would agree, but human instinct, intuition and emotional intelligence ought to allow for a pretty good qualitative assessment.
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