Unmotivated and burnt-out – Alexis closes the door to her office


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Alexis closes the door to her office after another employee hands in their resignation. She’s visibly shaken; this is the third employee they’ve lost this month. She knows the job can be hard, but something needs to improve or the organization will start to suffer in a way that can’t be quickly remedied. She looks back over the results of the last employee 360 surveys. The results aren’t surprising. The nonprofit deals with a lot of challenging clients; homeless men and women suffering from mental health issues and addiction. To complicate things, the community is still reeling over having a homeless service center near one of their most treasured parks. Still, Alexis needs to report back to her boss as soon as possible with a plan on how she can improve employee morale so turnover decreases.

Alexis pores over the survey results. A lot of employees mention that they struggle with all of the strict rules that they must follow, leaving them with little opportunities to use their professional discretion. The organization does have a lot of rules, but they are put in place to protect them from undue liability. Perhaps the punishments for rule breaking are too high?

Employees also mention feeling isolated from their coworkers and not having enough support from their supervisors. They always feel like they are operating in crisis—with high caseloads, difficult clients, never-ending rules and monitoring, and little agency or empowerment from their superiors. Alexis thinks to herself that they’ve been over this time and time again, but something has to change this time or the center will be at risk of closure. She disappointingly starts to draft a report with recommendations.


1. What leadership style(s) do you think are currently present in the organization? What about this leadership style do you think is appropriate for the scenario? What is not appropriate?

2. How might Alexis use a different approach to improve employee morale, even though she’s unable to decrease workloads?

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