“It’s not me, it’s you,” your disgruntled employee Steve* says, spinning on his heel and walking out the door. Before he exits, he casts you a final look of disappointment, leaving you with a sudden job vacancy and an empty space in your heart.
Okay, maybe it’s not always as dramatic as an episode of As the World Turns – but at times, your employees will likely experience low morale – and you risk losing good people because of it. Instead of patching things up from your “employee break-up,” how can you be proactive and make your work environment a more pleasant place to be before things get out of hand?
Improving morale and productivity isn’t always as complicated as it may seem, and it can even be accomplished on a shoestring budget. Below are 8 Little Things that Make a Big Difference to help you connect with your employees and keep workplace drama where it belongs – on the TV screen.
*Name changed to protect the disgruntled employee
Get to the Cliffhanger…
1) Be a sympathetic listener.
What is bothering your employees? Is it stress? Lack of incentives? Something else that you’re not tapping into? Stress, burnout or lack of opportunities are often linked to low morale, but you likely won’t know unless you ask. As a leader, you aren’t expected to be a mind reader, but you are expected to care about your employees and be in touch with their concerns. Find out what’s on their mind.
2) Don’t hog the stage.
Talking with your employees one on one is a great idea, but letting employees air their thoughts, grievances and criticisms in a non-hostile environment with their peers – and without you present – generates more honest feedback. Have someone moderate the conversation, compile the ideas generated and present them as an anonymous list of group recommendations. This way, employees speak freely and know that they can be completely honest without repercussions.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Recurring Role…
3) You, unfortunately, don’t have a stunt double.
After talking with your employees, you may find that you’re coming up a bit short in their expectations of you. Admitting that you have areas to improve in as a leader may be a bitter pill to swallow, but instead of getting defensive, consider how to improve your leadership skills and your employees’ perceptions of you.
Two things you can start doing right away? First of all, smile. Your body language says a lot, and you may not realize the negativity you spread simply by ignoring co-workers when they walk by. Make an effort to look others in the eye and give them a simple smile and “hello” in passing. It may sound small, but it has a huge effect on those around you.
Second, recognize your employees for their efforts. Your employees want – and need – to be recognized for the hard work that they do, and a simple but sincere note of gratitude or a verbal “thanks – I know you really put a lot of time into that, and I appreciate it” goes a long way in their eyes.
If you are able to comfortably talk to your employees or gather information indirectly, you are able to dig more deeply into the core of the problem at hand. But knowing is only half the battle; once gaining an understanding of the issues, you must actually put ideas into action. If you ask for feedback but then don’t take steps to make changes, you lose credibility and trust – and your employees begin to doubt your effectiveness as a leader.
What if, however, your current environment doesn’t foster open communication or your employees don’t feel comfortable opening up at all? The ideas below combat likely sources of low morale: stress, burnout, lack of opportunity and weak relationships. Implement some of these ideas to build an environment in which candidness is the rule rather than the exception.
Set Up a New Storyline…
5) Give them some time “off set.”
In today’s era of expanding technology, increased remote accessibility, and raised environmental consciousness, more and more companies allow employees to telecommute (work from home). Companies with telecommuting programs typically experience a reduction in commuting costs as well as less expense incurred for sick time and travel. In addition, less time is lost when employees work from home, and environmentally conscious Generation Y candidates (and other earth-minded folks) appreciate the green-friendly gesture.
Telecommuting not an option in your business? Offering flexible schedules or shortened days such as half-day Fridays are also great incentives and give everyone something to look forward to.
6) Spur a bit of dialogue.
Put up a bulletin board and encourage employees to post any of their creative ideas – jokes, comic strips, interesting articles, pictures or other items of interest – to provoke conversation, expand creative thought, and give employees a break from their routine. The flow of creativity may spark a laugh – or even a new business idea.
7) Get out of town in a hurry.
Suggest and organize an outing to a museum, baseball game, or nearby restaurant for after-work refreshments and apps. Better yet, take an afternoon off together and go bowling or plan a potluck-style picnic. Events outside of the office environment are not only great morale boosters, but they give co-workers a chance to mingle in a more relaxed environment, ultimately strengthening both business and personal relationships.
For another alternative from the work norm, hold occasional meetings outdoors or in a location away from the office for a change of scenery and pace.
8) Help save the town of Springfield.
Get involved in a community service initiative. Sites like Volunteer Match offer searches by zip code and interest area. Volunteering can be as casual or as involved as you want to make it, but it does give you and your employees a chance to give back to the community as well as come together to do something meaningful. Many people are looking for jobs that help them grow as individuals and place importance on volunteering initiatives.
Got a better idea to help boost morale in the workplace, or wish to share one that’s worked well for you? Let us know!Related