With high morale closely connected to productivity and overall company yield, it’s no surprise that managers in every corporation want to keep it in the stratosphere. Still, business reflects life. And just as there are ups and downs in life, there is the same ebb and flow in the workplace. An office breathes. So, what do you do when the breaths seem shallow and morale dulls?
Recognize there is a problem.
Brushing a low morale problem under the rug or pretending that everything is sunshine and rainbows won’t make it go away. In fact, it will likely make it worse, as it can make employees feel like you are disconnected from reality — like you aren’t in the trenches with them, trying to make it work, even though you are. It closes you off to discussion and makes you seem blind to what’s going on. Don’t try to have an immediate solution; be forthcoming about what you see and voice your intent to make changes. The key words here are what you see. Not what your snap judgment is as to what’s behind the problem, but the fact that there is a problem, how it’s affecting your team, and that you are all over it. Ensure it’s known that your door is wide open to suggestions, ideas, and help in identifying the cause. This alone, though simple, is a vital step. Low morale, difficulties, and workplace problems often create distance between executives and staff due to an illusory divide as well as potentially blame or guilt. Knowing that action is being taken and the invitation to contribute can keep your workers going even while things are tough.
Identify the cause of the morale problem.
Experts recognize a host of reasons why morale can dip, but the most prominent one is lack of good communication. Other potential trouble spots include a lack of variety, few or no incentives, strict lines between different levels of management, insufficient praise or feedback, and unreasonable workloads. Widespread economic and personal stresses are also factors. Figuring out which is the culprit is not necessarily easy, because elements can be interconnected. In addition to general observation, you might need to turn to quantifiable and qualitative information, such as feedback surveys, interviews, and company statistics.
Give your employees information and get them involved in rectifying the problem.
Once you have a pretty good idea of what is causing morale to suffer in the office, you need to communicate it to your employees, individually if possible, leaving no one out. Once again, this cannot be stressed enough. You need to make sure everyone understands the problem, and in communicating the cause, listen to their responses. You need to tell all of them, certainly, but you also need to actively listen to what they have to say. Share what you think will help, but get their feedback too — they might have incredibly viable ideas that might not otherwise occur to you, and being asked what they think, face to face, does wonders for both clarifying the solution as well as aligning all vectors towards it. This way, they also know what situations and behaviors to avoid in the future. It shows them that you believe they may have been part of the problem, but they can also be a big part of the solution.
Make some changes.
A frequently quoted definition of insanity or craziness is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. If you want morale to go up in your company, you need to make some modifications. Exactly what you do will depend on what you discover in your research and observations of the office as well as what your employees tell you in their feedback. You do not need to make all of your changes right away, as doing so can be costly and too jarring and disorienting to your workers, but once you make a change, you need to be firm and consistent about enforcing it. It might take some time before you can see evidence that the change is working but — stay the course.
Monitor and report your progress.
After you initiate whatever changes you’re going to incorporate, you need to keep an eye on what’s going on to see if the adjustments are beneficial. If you’ve moved in the right direction, you’ll likely notice lower rates of lateness or absenteeism, fewer conflicts, increased customer satisfaction, higher productivity, less worker segregation, and better participation. Don’t discount the value of an increase in smiles. Let the workers know that you see improvement and thank them for working with you through tough times.
Low morale in the workplace is not something most companies can afford to ignore. If you see it in the office you manage, your first course of action needs to be to take some ownership of the issue and get it out in the open, clarifying to your workers that it’s there. The next step, researching to identify one or more causes of the morale slump, is probably the most resource-intensive and can be quite tiring physically and mentally. It’s only after you’ve clearly identified the root of the problem that you can select and implement some positive changes. Finally, monitor your progress and share the results with your employees to ensure that what you’re doing is really working and morale is back up where it should be.