Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others. The second term applies particularly to military personnel and to members of sports teams, but is also applicable in business and in any other organizational context, particularly in times of stress or controversy. While the term is often used by authority figures as a generic value judgment of the willpower, obedience and self-discipline of a group tasked with performing duties assigned by a superior, more accurately it refers to the level of individual faith in the collective benefit gained by such performance.

According to Alexander H. Leighton, "morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose".[1]



In military science, there are two meanings to morale. Primarily it means the cohesion of a unit, task force, or other military group. An army with good supply lines, sound air cover and a clear objective can be said to possess, as a whole, "good morale" or "high morale." Historically, elite military units such as special operations forces have "high morale" due to both their training and pride in their unit. When a unit's morale is said to be "depleted", it means it is close to "crack and surrender", as was the case with Italian units in North Africa during World War II. It is well worth noting that generally speaking, most commanders do not look at the morale of specific individuals but rather the "fighting spirit" of squadrons, divisions, battalions, ships, etc.


Despite the intangible nature of morale, improvements in material factors (such as remuneration, food and shelter) can improve morale. However, history is filled with stories of the self-will and determination of a poorly supplied army maintaining morale to the very end, such as the Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War or the French Revolutionary Army in the French Revolutionary Wars.


  • Adequate quantity, and quality of food, water, and shelter.
  • The quality of military leadership.
  • The quality of military training (primarily drilling), enabling members of the unit to reach the collective identity during the combat.
  • Having a volunteer military ("Standing Army"), as opposed to a force made up of potentially less motivated draftees or conscripts ("Drafted Army").
  • A belief in the values the military represents, and fights for.
  • A belief in, and loyalty towards the nation and culture the military fights on behalf of.
  • How often the army wins or loses a confrontation with the enemy.
  • A sense of pride, belonging and inheritance by its members of the traditions and honour of a military unit or corps and a determination to live up to those traditions.
  • Distinctive uniforms, badges, insignias or any exclusive regimental emblems contribute to built a strong esprit de corps.
  • Creating a sense of camaraderie between the members of a unit. In the past this has been done by recruiting units locally, for example the Pals battalions of World War I with brothers and friends fighting in the same unit, or other selection criteria for example the Sacred Band of Thebes. The advantage of such units is that since cowardice or desertion would mean the abandoning of friends, loved ones, and family to die, such units would continue fighting long after the call of prudence. The disadvantage of such units is that any disaster will have disproportionate effect on a community. In modern militaries camaraderie is fostered through shared experiences, hardships and deprivations in training.

Home Front

A nation's population is likely to retain high wartime morale when:[citation needed]

  • The objectives of a war are clearly understood by the public.
  • The objectives of a war are valued by the public.
  • A public believes the war can be won.
  • A public believes the war is worth winning.
  • A public fears the consequences of losing the war.
  • Clear signs of success in the war show.

The morale of a civilian population can also increase or decrease due to exposure to propaganda from their government or opposition forces, respectively. Psychological warfare is a major part of modern warfare. Nation states, politically motivated individuals, religious activists, and secular pressure groups employ psychological warfare to target the minds of citizens in nations and cultures they are opposed to.

Since at least the time of Carl von Clausewitz's On War, maintenance of morale has been considered one of the fundamental "Principles of War"[citation needed]. Sir Basil Liddell Hart regarded morale even more fundamentally:

"The aim of a nation in war is to subdue the enemy's will to resist,..."[2]

Sun Tzu, in his book The Art of War, also mentions morale of nations and of armies.

In the workplace

Workplace events play a large part in changing employee morale, such as heavy layoffs, the cancelation of overtime, canceling benefits programs, and the lack of union representation. Other events can also influence workplace morale, such as sick building syndrome, low wages, and employees being mistreated.


  • Job security.
  • Management style.
  • Staff feeling that their contribution is valued by their employer.
  • Realistic opportunities for merit-based promotion.
  • The perceived social or economic value of the work being done by the organization as a whole.
  • The perceived status of the work being done by the organization as a whole.
  • Team compositions.
  • The work culture.

See also


  1. ^ Alexander H. Leighton, Human Relations in a Changing World: Observations on the Uses of the Social Sciences (1949)
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Spenser (1927). "Killing No Murder". Retrieved 2011-05-20. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • MORALE — Étymologiquement, «morale» vient du latin (philosophia ) moralis , traduction par Cicéron, du grec ta èthica ; les deux termes désignent ce qui a trait aux mœurs, au caractère, aux attitudes humaines en général et, en particulier, aux règles de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • morale — Morale. s. f. La doctrine des moeurs. Bonne morale. meschante morale. morale corrompuë. morale depravée. morale dangereuse. morale relaschée. la morale des Payens. la morale Chrestienne. la morale de Jesus Christ. la morale de l Evangile. il… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • morale — mo‧rale [məˈrɑːl ǁ məˈræl] noun [uncountable] HUMAN RESOURCES the level of confidence and positive feelings among a group of people who work together: • The poor working conditions have an adverse effect on staff morale. * * * morale UK US… …   Financial and business terms

  • morale — morale, discipline, esprit de corps although not always close synonyms, are comparable when they mean a condition or spirit which holds together a body of persons. Morale usually applies to the qualities of an entire body of men (as an army or a… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • morale — (n.) 1752, moral principles or practice, from Fr. morale morality, good conduct, from fem. of O.Fr. moral moral (see MORAL (Cf. moral) (adj.)). Meaning confidence (especially in a military context) first recorded 1831, from confusion with Fr.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • morale — [dal lat. moralis, der. di mos moris costume ]. ■ agg. 1. [che concerne il comportamento dell uomo nella scelta e attuazione responsabile del bene e del male: valori m. ] ▶◀ etico. 2. a. [di persona, comportamento, ecc., che rispetta i princìpi… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • morale — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. n ndm {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} postawa moralna, świadomość obowiązku, duch, wola walki, działania itp. : {{/stl 7}}{{stl 10}}Upada morale żołnierzy. <niem. z fr.> {{/stl 10}} …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • Morale — Mo rale , n. [F. See {Moral}, a.] 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Möräle — may refer to: Places Murali, Arsky District, Republic of Tatarstan, a village (selo) in Arsky District of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia Murali, Kaybitsky District, Republic of Tatarstan, a village (selo) in Kaybitsky District of the Republic… …   Wikipedia

  • morale — index confidence (faith) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • moralė — morãlė dkt. Aukštõs morãlės žmogùs …   Bendrinės lietuvių kalbos žodyno antraštynas

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