Low morale can permeate your culture, hindering collaboration and hurting customer service.
Don’t blame the hiring process nor any individual employee for sagging morale; the buck stops with company leaders. They, after all, create the work environment through their attitudes, policies and even biases.
A high-morale environment is built on trust, respect, autonomy and recognition.
Before exploring the fixes, let’s look at several causes of low morale:
- Lack of growth. If the business isn’t growing and there’s no movement or action, employees can become bored and demotivated. Research shows that employees need growth to stay engaged; otherwise they’ll leave for a more challenging role.
- Lack of clarity. When employees don’t fully know what’s expected of them, or if those expectations are misaligned, it leads to stress.
- Change in leadership. A merger or a shakeup among senior leaders can lower morale, as the culture changes and staff confidence falters.
- Leadership behavior issues. Leaders’ behaviors affect the team—and front-line managers get caught between their charges and those senior leaders.
Here are seven ways to fix low morale:
1. Practice transparency. Don’t pretend morale isn’t low. Employees will respect your honesty, and you can work together to fix the issue.
2. Give recognition. When morale is low, it’s important to identify and applaud good work. Lack of recognition might even be the cause, so focus on the positive in tough times. Employees need to feel appreciated and valued.
3. Train mid-level managers. They deal directly with most employees, so it falls on them to buoy morale. Focus on these key areas:
- Emotional intelligence
- Different leadership styles
- Giving feedback and recognition
4. Run a “calm company.” Setting aggressive goals and pushing yourself and your team to the limit is inspiring, but reducing stress, maintaining work-life balance and running a healthy, even-keeled company should be your real objective.
5. Offer growth. To keep employees motivated, give them a sense of progress and something to look forward to. Even if it’s not a promotion, help them take courses or attend conferences to improve their skills. As long as there’s a sense of development, they’ll be motivated.
6. Collect feedback. When employees feel heard, they are more likely to be motivated. You can set up an anonymous employee engagement platform or conduct informal team meetings, but make sure to show your employees that their opinions count. Act, when possible, on whatever feedback you receive. Even if you don’t implement every suggestion, get back to them and thank them.
7. Run team-building activities. When morale is low, organize a night out or a team lunch to lift spirits. It’s amazing what a few slices of pizza can do. It’s not a long-term solution, but it can tide you and your people over until more extensive measures take hold.
A version of this post first appeared on the Officevibe blog.