The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 7 (December 15, 1926)
Since the reorganisation of our railways was started, some two years ago, we have frequently been confronted with the phrase “The Morale of the Service.” The phrase, and what it signifies, is of very great importance. It will be interesting therefore to attempt an interpretation of the word morale and to ascertain what rôle it plays in our railway service. What precisely is morale? Morale, like the words “electricity,” “matter,” “life,” “energy” and words of that order is exceedingly difficult, if not altogether impossible, to define. All that can be said is that it is a symbol for a virtue in man, singly, and in the group which renders both invulnerable against defeat. It is the crystallisation of the healthiest attributes of the body and mind of the individual—of the group —the faith which makes us “strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Its presence or absence, alike in the individual and the group, is the difference between order and chaos, success or failure. In the fine words of a very eminent psychologist, Professor Stanley Hall, morale is the “cult of condition.”
“When we awake after a sound and refreshing sleep with every organ in tune and at concert pitch, and rejoice that we are alive, well, young, strong, bueyant and exuberant, with animal spirits at the top-notch; when we are full of joy that the world is so beautiful, that we can love our dear ones, and can throw ourselves into our work with zest and abandon because we like it; when our problems seem not insuperable……..when we feel that we live for something that we would die for if need be —this is morale.”
The Great War provided us with perhaps the most striking examples in recorded history of the meaning and value of morale. Britain and her allies triumphed in the war because the morale of the armies and the nations behind them was superior to the morale which was manifested by the armies and nations of Central Europe. What happened in Russia in 1917—a calamity from which the world still suffers— was caused first by a weakening, then by a total breakdown of the morale of the whole gigantic organisation military and civil. The “Steam Roller” was no more.
Morale, therefore, is the virtue of virtues in any organisation. It grows more important with the growing complexity of life. As far as we are concerned as railwaymen morale must be conceived as the very soul of our railways. We cannot hope to succeed in the difficult task of adjusting the big railway machine to meet the changed conditions which confront us in our work to-day, without the fullest manifestation of that inward urge—morale. To lose sight of the fact that the order of things has changed for us permanently; that this Dominion, along with the rest of the world, has entered upon a new era; that the business by which we live as railwaymen is not the impregnable thing it was in pre-war days; to lose sight of these facts—to be indifferent to them—is to be deficient in morale. We have all heard of the great law of survival—“The survival of the fittest.” In terms of this law, organisms, plant or animal, which through some inherent defect cannot adapt themselves to the conditions of their environment, perish from the earth. The same law operates in human society, and the same fate —obliteration—awaits a business enterprise, whether large or small, which lacks the adaptive capacity. Consciousness of this great truth is a permanent stimulus to morale. Morale is not alone for the employees of our railways. The responsibility which rests upon the management in every branch of the service is significant in this respect. Man by nature is a worker—a striver. When his enthusiasm is aroused, his loyalty enlisted, his genuine efforts rewarded— if only by appreciation—he rarely fails to measure up to the best conceptions of manliness. He is not by nature a loiterer. He is made so by mostly preventable conditions. Moreover, he is a very sensitive animal. He resents being treated by superiors as an inferior. He is a proud and honourable being. Assumptions of superiority, expressions of tactlessness on the part of any official in the service who is privileged to occupy a managerial or similar office, destroy morale. Conversely, disdain on the part of any employee for the authority which is necessarily vested in the head of his department likewise destroys morale. Morale demands that the passions be always under control. With mutual understanding of mutual responsibilities and expression of the amenities between man and man in these instances morale is not only maintained, but increased, for the benefit of the service. Morale demands the fullest unity of purpose—the concentration of each, man on the work he is doing and its influence for the general good. We have to make our railways pay, and the task requires our united effort and fullest concentration. A glance at the financial barometer in any recent issue of our Magazine shows definitely where lies our weakness. We must exert our maximum strength in an endeavour to make our position secure. Morale will help us in our great task for it means “throwing everything we have, are, and can do, into the game up to the last moment.” To do this with. determination is not to fail.