Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used for 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.
Morale is unrelated to morality (the ability to distinguish right and wrong).
In a military sense, 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 the Praetorian Guard, Napoleon's Imperial Guard, Hitler's elite Waffen-SS divisions and many Special Forces or elite units like the Israeli Golani Brigade, French Foreign Legion, United States Army Special Forces, SAS, Australian SASR and Spetsnaz, have "high morale" due to both their elite 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, Marine Safety Detachments, etc.
Despite the intangible nature of morale, improvements in material factors (such as remuneration, food and shelter) can improve the 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.
Morale in warfare is also related to the morale of a nation's population. A nation's population is likely to retain high wartime morale when:
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' On War, maintenance of morale has been considered one of the fundamental "Principles of War". 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,...
Workplace events play a large part in changing employee morale, such as heavy layoffs, the cancellation of overtime, cancelling 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.