The Brit finished seventh in last weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to record the team's first points of the year.
Even still, it was far from a convincing performance with Daniel Ricciardo failing to reach the flag, while Norris was somewhat aided by the fact just 13 cars finished the race.
Seventh was therefore a result that can be considered above expectations for the team which finished fourth in last year's constructors' world championship.
“When you have points and you have success and you have podiums, then there's always a rise in morale,” Norris said.
“I don't think it's got worse. I think there's expectations, of course, and that's just racing people, we want to have success and do well.
“So we're never going to be as happy in P16 compared to if we were P8, or P7, or whatever, so there's always just a little bit of happiness gone.”
While Norris was arguably fortunate in Saudi Arabia, the venue did offer an insight into the relative strengths of the McLaren MCL36.
The latter venue is far bumpier, with more low- and medium-speed corners versus the Catalunya circuit in Spain where the car looked stronger.
That suggests traits consistent with last year's car, which flourished on high-speed layouts but struggled for low-speed grip.
“I think the key thing is everyone's so very motivated,” Norris said.
“It's such a long season to go, and even if it's two months of struggling, and six, seven, eight races of struggling, I think everyone's quite confident and just motivated within themselves and with other people that we can make good progress together, and be back where we should be.
“I don't think we can be happy with where we are,” he added.
“I think that's the point of what I'm trying to say, to say we can't be happy and therefore we're not.
“But the important thing is we're motivated still to get back to where we know we should be.”
McLaren currently lies eighth in the constructors' championship with six points, a competition headed by Ferrari on 78.