To: Jane Doe
From: Gray Turel
Shift Supervisor, Starbucks
Subject: Recommendation Report – Employee Morale
Attached is the report of my study regarding employee morale at the Starbucks located on
Exchange Street in Portland, Maine. I took a three-pronged approach to this subject, first
ascertaining a numerical value of current employee morale at the Exchange Street Starbucks,
then delving into research regarding generalities about employee morale, and finally searching
for possible solutions to the issue of low employee morale.
In order to ascertain a numerical value of employee morale, I conducted primary research using a
short survey, which I administered to my coworkers over the course of a week. I then began
secondary research into the topic of low employee morale, and sought out sources which could
inform me about the subject in a generalized way. I then continued using secondary research to
find possible conceptual solutions to the problems at hand, and related them back to my research
into the causes of low employee morale.
My main finding was that employee morale at the Starbucks on Exchange Street was split, with
primarily opening baristas reporting higher levels of morale than closing baristas. After
completing secondary research into the topic, I found that the source of this low morale for
closing baristas could be traced back to three core issues in our operations. First of all,
communication between closing baristas and the store manager is almost nonexistent, as the store
manager’s shifts very rarely overlaps with closing baristas. Secondly, expectations for opening
and closing shifts is not standardized, and subject to change from day to day. Frequently, daily
tasks are neglected by openers and left for closers, which adds to the already daunting list of
tasks that must be completed nightly. Finally, the resources of the closing baristas, in terms of
time and staffing, are rarely adequate given the task list and customer demands that must be
attended to before closing the store.
I recommend that the Starbucks on Exchange Street address all three of these concerns in order
to boost employee morale. Firstly, I suggest that the store manager makes time each week to
meet with each employee, even if only for a few minutes, in order to boost communication and
allow each employee to have their voice heard. Secondly, I suggest that reusable task lists are
created, broken down by day part, in order to clearly lay out expectations for each shift
throughout the day. This will also solve the third issue contributing to low employee morale, that
of too heavy of a burden placed on closers, as openers will share in the work load of completing
Letter to Jane, Doe
November 21, 2015
Thank you for placing your trust in me to research and come up with a solution to this pressing
issue, and I look forward to working with you on any follow-up activities. If you have any
questions, comments, or concerns, please contact me, Gray Turel, at email@example.com or at
Employee Morale at
Starbucks on Exchange Street
In Portland, Maine
Prepared for: Jane Doe
Exchange Street Starbucks
Prepared by: Gray Turel
Exchange Street Starbucks
November 21, 2015
“Employee Morale at
Starbucks on Exchange Street
in Portland, Maine”
Prepared by: Gray Turel
Exchange Street Starbucks
On November 6, 2015, Starbucks store manager Jane Doe approved a proposal by shift
supervisor Gray Turel to conduct research in order to ascertain the level of employee morale at
the Starbucks on Exchange Street in Portland, Maine and report on his findings. The author
began by conducting primary research into the current level of employee morale by
administering a three question survey to his colleagues and asking them to provide a numerical
value for their current job satisfaction, the reason they reported said value, and what could be
done to improve that score. He then began conducting secondary research into the conceptual
causes of low employee morale in a professional environment, found three root causes of low
employee morale, and then conducted still more secondary research in order to determine a
course of action to improve overall morale. Employee morale at the Starbucks on Exchange
Street is divided among opening and closing baristas, with openers reporting a higher level of
overall job satisfaction than closers. The causes of low employee morale among closing baristas
stems from three major issues in store operations. First of all, communication between closing
baristas and the store manager is infrequent at best, which gives the closing baristas a sense of
being out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Secondly, expectations for both opening and closing baristas are
not standardized and subject to change on any given day, which leads to many daily tasks which
could be completed by openers to be overlooked and left for closing baristas to complete in
addition to their already substantial workload. This contributes to the third, and final, root cause
of the low morale of closing baristas, as their resources, as in time and staffing, and far
outstripped by the demands placed on them by the daily task list and customer demands. The
author recommends that the store manager take time each week to meet with each barista and
allow their voice to be heard and that daily reusable tasks lists are created, broken down by day-
part, so that daily tasks are divided equally between openers and closers and clear expectations
are put in place for each shift.
Keywords: employee morale, Starbucks, barista, opening, closing, tasks, communication,
Table of Contents
Task 1 – Determine Current Employee Morale……………………………………......3
Task 2 – ResearchCauses of Low Employee Morale………………………………….3
Task 3 - ResearchMethods for Improving Employee Morale……………………......4
Task 4 – Apply Findings to the Context of Starbucks…………………………………4
Task 5 – Analyze Data and Prepare Recommendation Report……………………….4
Task 1 – Determine Current Employee Morale………………………………………..5
Task 2 – ResearchCauses of Low Employee Morale………………………………….5
Task 3 - ResearchMethods for Improving Employee Morale………………………..6
Task 4 – Apply Findings to the Context of Starbucks…………………………………7
Current State of Employee Morale at Starbucks………………………………………9
Causes of Low Morale…………………………………………………………………...9
Evenly Distribute Daily Tasks…………………………………………………………10
Provide clear expectations……………………………………………………………..10
In order to gain insight into employee morale at the Starbucks on Exchange Street in Portland,
Maine, Jane Doe, the store manager, asked me to conduct primary research in order to determine
employee morale, then conduct secondary research into the idea of low employee morale and it’s
root causes, and then research possible solutions to the problem of low employee morale.
After conducting a brief survey, where each barista working at the Exchange Street Starbucks
was asked to provide a numerical score of their overall job satisfaction, provide a reason for their
score, and offer a way that their score could be improved, I determined that average employee
morale was at half of what would be considered ideal, and that morale was divided between
opening and closing baristas, with openers reporting higher overall job satisfaction than closers.
After ascertaining this information, I began secondary research into the topic of low employee
morale in general, and sought to determine the underlying causes of this issue. I combed through
articles, research papers, and online journals in order to gain insight into the root causes of low
employee morale and narrowed my finding down to three specific causes of low employee
morale. After determining the root causes of low morale, I then used that information as a lead
into researching potential solutions to the specific problems that I had found.
I determined that the root cause of low employee morale among closers at Starbucks was three-
fold. First of all, a lack of communication between closing baristas and the store manager gives
the closing baristas the impression that they are not as important as opening baristas and their
opinions do not matter as much as openers. Secondly, a lack of clear expectations for opening
and closing shifts allows for openers to simply complete those tasks that they feel they have time
for or remember, while the closers have to pick up any slack left by openers as well as complete
the already lengthy task list that must be completed at night. Finally, and perhaps most
importantly, this burden of daily tasks, as well as demands placed on closing baristas by the flow
of customers through the store throughout the night, far outstrips the time and staffing provided
to closing baristas, such that they constantly feel under-prepared to deal with the tasks at hand.
I recommend that the store manager of the Exchange Street Starbucks implement two major
changes to the store’s operations in order to solve these three core issues. First of all, I suggest
that the store manager make it a priority each week to meet with all baristas in order to check in
with them and solicit their input into the store’s operations. This will foster communication
throughout the store and allow all partner’s voices to be heard. Then, I suggest that the store
manager work with the shift supervisors in order to create daily task lists, broken down by day
part. This will provide clear expectations for both openers and closers and ensure that all baristas
know exactly what is expected of them, regardless of the shift that they are working. Not only
does the creation of task lists provide clarity and known-expectations, but it will equitably divide
tasks between openers and closers, while ensuring that all shifts are accountable for their fair
share of the work that must be done throughout the day.
I was tasked with researching the current state of morale at the Starbucks location I currently
work at and determine whether morale was high or low. I conducted primary research by
administering surveys to my coworkers, and asking them to rate their overall job satisfaction,
why they gave their rating, and what could be done to improve their rating. My finding was that
average morale was rather low, at half of what would be a “perfect” score.
I also found that employee morale at my store fell into two categories, the morale of the morning
staff and the morale of the closing staff. Those employees who predominantly work morning
shifts rated higher levels of job satisfaction than employees that predominantly work closing
In order to find a solution to raise morale at my store, I needed first to understand the general
underlying causes of low employee morale in the workplace. I conducted online research into the
topic of low employee morale, specifically focusing on the causes. Using the information that I
found, coupled with my knowledge of Starbucks operating procedures, I found that the three core
problems that contribute to the low employee morale at my store are lack of communication, lack
of specifically outlined expectations, and forcing employees to do too much.
I determined that the discrepancy between openers and closers morale stemmed from the three
core issues that I found through my research. First of all, openers have regular opportunities to
communicate with the store manager, who predominantly works mornings, while closers almost
never see the store manager, let alone have an opportunity to communicate. Secondly, openers
enjoy almost no accountability or expectation to complete tasks beyond serving customers, while
closers are stuck cleaning the entire store and completing any tasks left by the openers. As such,
closers have an ever-changing list of expectations, dependent upon the work down by openers,
and must shoulder that burden in addition to the already involved task of cleaning the entire
store, which fulfills the final two aspects that contribute to low employee morale.
After gaining insight into the specific causes of low employee morale at my store, I next needed
to determine a course of action that would improve employee morale. I conducted more online
research into how to boost morale, focusing specifically on the three contributors to low
employee morale that I had previously determined. In order to boost morale, our store must
improve opportunities for communication with the store manager, lay out specific and
quantifiable expectations for each shift, and equitably distribute the daily tasks that must between
openers and closers.
I recommend that my store implements some very specific, yet rather simple, changes to our
operating procedures in order to boost employee morale. First of all, our store manager should
make an effort to check in with each barista and shift supervisor once a week in order to assess
how things are going and what could be done to make things run more smoothly. In addition, we
should create tasks lists, broken down by day part, in order to spread the tasks and duties of the
day more evenly between openers and closers.
Task 1. Determine Current Employee Morale
My first course of action in putting together this research proposal was to first objectively gauge
the morale at my store. From working with my coworkers, some of them for over two years, I
could sense the low morale among the team, but I had to be able to quantify it using a number
rating system. I devised a simple, three-part survey that I could administer orally in only a few
The first part of my survey was for the employee in question to give a numeric value of their
overall job satisfaction, on the continuum 1-5, with 1 being ready to quit and 5 being perfect. The
second aspect of the survey was to ask them why they gave the number that they gave. Finally, I
asked each employee what could be done in order to improve that numerical value.
I administered this survey to each of my coworkers over the course of three days. I recorded the
results in a notebook, and left each response anonymous, tagging each response only with the
day-part that the employee in question usually worked, either “opener” or “closer.” My intent in
breaking the responses up by day-part was to illustrate a divide in morale between “openers” and
“closers” that I have sensed for months, but have been unable to quantify until I conducted this
After conducting this survey, I had an accurate picture of the overall morale of my store, as well
as more specific information about morale broken into dayparts. Now that I had ascertained
exactly the extent of the problem at hand, I could turn my attention to studying the objective idea
of low employee morale and explore causes and methods for improving morale.
Task 2. Research Causes of Low Employee Morale
After gaining insight into the specific morale score of my Starbucks store, I could now turn my
attention to gaining insight into the idea of low employee morale itself. I wanted to understand
what objective truths about low employee morale exist, and what research had been done about
the effects of low morale in the workplace.
I turned to the internet, and began scouring Google for articles, listicles, and even Starbucks-
related forums, and began piecing together the root causes of low morale in the workplace. This
stage of research was daunting at first, because each article tended to place emphasis in a
different aspect of the workplace as the root cause of lackluster morale. However, as I combed
through more research papers and articles, I started to see a few concepts and ideas start to
overlap. I determined three root causes of low employee morale, and recorded my results.
At this point, I felt that I had gained solid insight, not only into the root causes of low employee
morale in general terms, but that I had also gained significant insight into what was causing the
morale at my specific Starbucks to remain static at such a low point. I now turned my attention to
remedies for low employee morale and what we, as a store, could do to boost morale.
Task 3. Research Methods for Improving Employee Morale
In the course of researching the causes of low employee morale, I found many articles related to
boosting employee morale. The breadth of suggestions for how to boost morale was substantial,
and many suggestions were unrealistic or would not apply to a Starbucks. Instead, I used the
three root causes of low morale that I had determined as a jumping off point, and sought
information about how to specifically combat those three causes.
Again, I used to the internet to find articles, academic papers, and lists from various sources to
gain some insight into how a manager could improve employee morale in a real and quantifiable
way. I sought to incorporate a broad spectrum of sources, from Chron.com, a news website with
a dedicated “small business” section, to an academic paper published by the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I compiled a list of possible solutions to the problem of low employee morale as they related to
the three root causes that I had determined and recorded my findings. I now had an accurate
picture of the state of morale at my store, the underlying causes of low morale, and knowledge of
how to combat low morale. I now needed to apply these findings to the specific context of a
Task 4. Apply Findings to the Context of Starbucks
Much of the information that I had gleaned about the causes and possible solutions to low
employee morale pertained to what I will refer to as “office jobs” rather than “service jobs.”
However, the underlying concepts pertaining to morale can absolutely be translated to the
specific context of Starbucks by someone with an intimate knowledge of the functions of a
Starbuck store, like myself.
Many of the causes of low morale that I found in the course of my research were worded in such
a way that an office manager would be able to identify with them. For example, when discussion
workplace communication, many of the articles that I found referred to memos and reports,
which are not necessarily part of the culture of Starbucks, however we do use a “Shift
Communication Log” to write “memos” to the morning shift, and so I applied the concepts of
memo writing to our communication log.
In this way, I was able to apply the general root causes of low employee morale to my specific
Starbucks. I had a clear picture of the state of morale at my Starbucks, insight into the general
causes of low employee morale which I had applied to my specific Starbucks, and general
methods for improving employee morale, again applied directly to my Starbucks.
Task 5. Analyze Data and Prepare Recommendation Report
I then drafted this report, starting first with the “results” section of this document, where I laid
out my research findings and specific quotations and data. I then created this “research methods”
section in order to explain my thought process and methodology throughout the research process.
Task 1. Determine Current Employee Morale
In order to determine the current state of morale at the Exchange St. Starbucks in Portland,
Maine, I needed to collect primary data from my colleagues and coworkers. We currently have
twelve employees at this location. Of those twelve, one is the store manager, four are Shift
Supervisors (Including myself), and the remaining seven are baristas.
I constructed a series of three questions that I asked each employee in an informal interview
conducted over the course of two days. First, I asked each employee to rate their overall
satisfaction with their job on a scale of 1-5. Second, I asked them why they chose that number.
Finally, I asked each employee “What, within reason, could we change to improve your overall
The results were not surprising, given my overall impression of employee morale going into this
experiment. The average of the results was 2.58 overall satisfaction. The reasons for such low
morale ranged from unfair division of labor between openers and closers to poor management
and discontent with scheduling. Suggestions to improve morale ranged from more explicitly
defined expectations going into a shift to the hiring of a new manager and improved flexibility
The most interesting piece of data that I gleaned from this informal survey was the apparent
divide between employees that work more opens than closes versus employees that work more
closes than opens. In fact, the two employees who only open (one shift supervisor and one
barista) gave the two highest rates of overall satisfaction (four and five). These opening
employees cited a pay raise and a new store manager, respectively, as ways to improve the
overall morale of the store. On the other hand, the baristas and shift supervisors that primarily
close reported the lowest overall satisfaction, with a dedicated closing barista reporting a “one”
in overall job satisfaction. The number one suggestion for improving morale among closing
baristas was to more evenly distribute tasks between opening and closing shifts.
This primary research confirmed my belief going into this experiment that overall employee
morale at Starbucks is less than desirable. With an average overall job satisfaction of just over
half of perfect, it is clear that there is huge room for improvement. Before determining a course
of action to correct low employee morale, I would first need to gain an understanding of low
employee morale from second-hand research into this topic.
Task 2. Research Causes of Low Employee Morale
The responses of my coworkers as to why their overall job satisfaction was so low tended to be
highly specific to our store, and I found myself lacking understanding as to the underlying
concepts and ideas behind their dissatisfaction. I began researching the topic of employee
morale, specifically concentrating on articles pertaining to the causes of low morale.
I found that morale is dependent upon a complex lattice of concepts and ideas that must come
together as one in order to foster a positive work environment. However, a constant note echoed
by dozens of online articles and periodicals is that “Poor communication may do the greatest
harm to workplace morale” (Schoolcraft, 2013). It is when “management is unclear about
expectations, employees have not been effectively trained or do not feel a sense of ownership
over their work” (Ali, 2015) that employees will effectively stop trying to exceed expectations,
and will “just go through the motions rather than taking an active seat at the table” (Schoolcraft,
Indeed, “Nothing brings down morale like confusion” (Morgan, 2015). Often with new baristas,
and even occasionally with seasoned employees and shift supervisors, the exact expectations of a
shift at Starbucks can be confusing at best. Certain tasks must be completed, but when and by
whom is often left up to the particular shift supervisor in charge. It seems obvious that
“employees should be assigned tasks that are possible for them to accomplish, along with clear
guidelines about how to accomplish the tasks and a clear indicator of when the tasks' goals are
accomplished” (Morgan, 2015), yet too often baristas and shift supervisors are simply thrown
onto a shift with no clear picture as to what has already been done that day and what still needs
to be accomplished.
Another, major factor that goes into building or tearing down employee morale is balancing an
employee’s resources with their client’s demands. According to a paper by researchers at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “organizations may look at it as a good thing when
clients’ demands exceed employee’s resources, since it would create the opportunity to learn,
improve and increase sales” (Lee, 2012). On the contrary, when customer’s demands exceed
employee resources, “this may lead to staff apathy, causing them to feel like they cannot do
anything about it” (Lee, 2012). In the context of Starbucks, I see the “resources” of the employee
as their time and attention, which must be divided between helping customers and performing
the necessary tasks throughout the day. When customer’s demands exceed a barista’s time, it is
inevitable that crucial tasks will be left undone or done poorly, with neither the barista nor the
The conclusion that I can draw from my research into the causes of high and low employee
morale is that communication is key. Management must set out attainable expectations and
goals, as well as clear methods for reaching those goals. Management must also work with their
employees to help manage their resources effectively, in order to balance customer demand with
Task 3. Research Methods for Improving Employee Morale
After delving into the root cause of the low morale reported at my Starbucks, I turned my
attention to the methodology behind improving employee morale. Again, I found that improving
morale involves altering a complex network of ideas and concepts in order to foster a more
positive work environment.
Just as communication is at the heart of low employee morale, boosting communication is one of
the most direct methods of improving morale. “Good communication and clear expectations are
essential components that can increase employee morale” (Wyse, 2012) as “clear performance
parameters direct your service staff’s daily efforts” (Low Morale in Hospitality, 2012) and
eliminate any confusion or guesswork involved in a given barista’s or shift supervisor’s shift. “If
jobs aren’t clearly defined, workers may not know how they are being judged, what you really
expect from them or what job skills they should be developing” (Low Morale in Hospitality,
2012) which fosters an environment of confusion and anxiety, leading to low morale.
Beyond communicating goals and expectations with employees, it is imperative that
management avoids placing too heavy of a burden on their employees. One of the causes of low
employee morale is customer demand outstripping employee resources. “Job overload can lead
to dissatisfaction forcing work quality and productivity to decrease” (Wyse, 2012), and so a
manager must “carefully evaluate work expectations of employees to ensure they are not getting
burned-out” (Wyse, 2012).
Through second-hand research, it is abundantly clear that, at the heart of boosting morale, is the
issue of boosting communication. A barista or shift supervisor cannot do their job effectively if
they do not know what is expected of them, which leads to anxiety and poor employee morale. In
addition, it is imperative that steps are taken to ensure that the workload placed upon baristas and
shift supervisors is not excessive or disproportionate to the amount of time or resources available
to them. In other words, in order to boost morale, management “need[s] to critically examine
workloads, resolve conflicting demands placed on [staff], and boost communication” (Young,
Task 4. Apply Findings to the Context of Starbucks
After gleaning insight into the overall morale of my Starbucks through primary research, as well
as knowledge of the underlying causes of remedies of low employee morale, I must now
synthesize my findings and apply them to the specific context of Starbucks on Exchange St. in
Opening baristas at my store report a higher overall job satisfaction than closing baristas do.
Given my research into employee morale, I would attribute this disparity to the fact that opening
baristas have more opportunities to communicate with the store manager who primarily works
morning shifts. Opening baristas also have a very clearly defined list of duties, such as brewing
coffee, setting up the pastry case, and generally setting up the store for the day’s operations.
Open lines of communication and clearly defined expectations and duties are two of the major
components that foster high employee morale.
Closing baristas report far lower overall job satisfaction than opening baristas do. I would
attribute this to the fact that a closing barista could go two to three weeks without ever working a
shift that overlaps with the store manager’s. Therefore, communication between the store
manager and closing baristas is nearly always second hand, or in the form of notes. Closing
baristas also have very vaguely defined expectations and duties, from closing down the store to
completing any tasks or prep that was not able to be completed by the openers. Poor lines of
communication and poorly defined shift expectations and duties are two major contributing
factors to low overall employee morale.
While it is clear that the openers enjoy a work environment with inherently higher morale while
closers are relegated to a work environment with low overall morale, the solution to this problem
is not quite as clear.
In this section, I present my conclusions based on extensive research into the root causes of low
employee morale and what could be done to improve employee morale.
Current State of Employee Morale at Starbucks
At my specific Starbucks location, employee morale has a low average. When you break the
employees at this location up by dayparts, the results are quite different. Openers and baristas
that typically work morning shifts have a higher average reported overall job satisfaction than
closers and baristas that typically work night shifts.
Causes of Low Morale
The root causes of low employee morale, such as they apply to my specific Starbucks, fall into
three broad categories. First of all, communication for closers and night-shift baristas is lacking,
which is contributing to the overall low morale of that daypart. This is likely due to the lack of
contact between the store manager, who mainly works in the mornings, and night-shift baristas
and shift supervisors. Secondly, there is a lack of clear communication of expectations for each
shift, which causes confusion and anxiety in the night-shift baristas. Without clear expectations
set for openers and closers, openers are able to get whatever tasks they choose to get done, and
leave the rest for the night-shift baristas, causing the night-shift task load to fluctuate with little
to no predictability. Finally, the resources of night shift baristas are incongruous with the
demands placed on them. Night-shift baristas much complete any tasks that the morning shift did
not get done, close down and clean the whole store, and provide excellent customer service all at
once, which contributes to the low morale of the night-shift baristas.
I recommend that my Starbucks implements the following changes in order to boost employee
In order to improve opportunities for communication with the store manager, I propose that our
store manager make an effort to meet with each barista and shift supervisor at least once a week.
This not only gives the baristas and shift supervisors an opportunity to communicate comments
and suggestions to the store manager, but allows the store manager an opportunity to follow up
with each employee about their job performance and any other concerns she might have. This
would boost employee morale by giving each employee an opportunity to have their voice heard.
Evenly Distribute Daily Tasks and Provide Clear Expectations
In order to alleviate some of the burden placed on closers, I propose that we create daily tasks
lists, broken down by day part.
Task and prep lists are standard in the food-service industry. A task or prep list “ensures that
nothing will be forgotten” and “makes it easier” for the supervisor to “hold staff accountable for
the prep in their station” or, in this case, the tasks that each shift must complete (Prep Sheets,
2015). Indeed a task list would improve operations for opening baristas as well, as a checklist
ensures that “baristas have a set routine that they can follow every morning,” and build best
practices into those routines (Checklists Café Management Training, 2015).
Day-part task lists would evenly distribute the daily tasks that must be completed between the
opening and closing baristas, so that no one shift feel the burden of completing all of the days
tasks while providing excellent customer service. Closing tasks at Starbucks can be daunting,
with thirty or so individual tasks that must completed at very specific moments throughout the
night, leaving little room for forgotten tasks not completed during opening shifts (One Starbucks
store’s closing-tasks checklist, 2013).
Beyond equalizing the work down by each shift, this change would set very clear expectations
for each shift, and act as a way of keeping baristas and shift supervisors accountable for their
work. This measure would boost morale by equalizing the work down by each shift, and bring
the morale of openers and closers in accordance with one another.
Ali, V. (2010, October 21). The High Cost of Low Morale — and What To Do About It.
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