The morale can go up and down like the DOW Jones. Some of it is a natural result of outside influences, such as a struggling economy. Most of it is under your direct control. Short of putting putting antidepressants in the water supply many expert argue there’s no sure-fire way to boost employee morale. I disagree.
Morale is the result of the stories going on in your employees’ heads. The more they repeat negative stories, the more morale suffers. The cure is sparking a new, authentic story and sticking with it. The spark is easy and brings instant results.
1. The Daily Huddle: Remember this: people’s emotions are a result of the stories they are telling themselves in their heads. When your people are down, keeping it quiet will only make it worse. Have daily huddles (standing mini-meetings that last no more than 10 minutes) where you share the actions and progress you are taking to make things better. Let people share specific challenges they are facing, and the actions they are taking it to fix it. The daily huddle creates a regular shot of energy (better for you than doughnuts and coffee). Just be sure to stick with this for the life of your company. There is nothing worse than starting the huddle process and dropping the ball on it… that will further crush morale.
2. The Work Schedule Change Up: When people are in an emotional rut they are typically in a action rut too. Let them change the schedule of their activities, and you will instantly change their emotional rut. For example, let them start late on Monday so that they can clear up any personal stuff from the weekend and come in focused and ready to turn things around.
3. Forget What They Do, Talk About Why They Do It: Believe it or not, your tax collectors office is about as excited about collecting taxes as you are about paying them. So when they get down about what they do, their morale skyrockets when they appreciate why they do it – using funds to protect citizens, beautify parks, improve education and more. All to often employee morale tanks because everyone is focused on that. Get everyone’s attention focus on the why. Use the daily huddles as the perfect forum to remind people.
4. Specific Thank Yous: This one’s easy. It takes two simple words. Say it, and say it about something specific, and say it with meaning. Appreciation always increases morale. Acknowledging the difficult times, helps a lot too.
5. Learn The Love Language: You’d be surprised that love of a significant other can teach you amazing things about business morale. A book called, The 5 love Languages, teaches you how to communicate with a significant other… but the lessons go well beyond that. We all communicate in one of five methods. Read the book to learn about the communication style of your employees and practice speaking in their style. Then when your down-in-the-dumps employee starts moping around you’ll be able to help them get charged up again. When you speak the right language, morale leaps back up.
6. Let Them Talk: The first thing customer service reps learn is that angry, or down people need to vent before they are open to change. Meet with people individually or in small groups to share all the problems and challenges they are facing. The process of letting out the problems and stresses they are experiencing is a major step in instantly recovering morale. The key here is to do in small groups. In big groups you’re more likely to get a soap boxer harping on one problem. They can spawn more problems than you can fix.
7. Take the Bullet: When your people are facing difficult challenges and morale is sinking, be the ultimate leader and take the bullet for your team. Take on the dirty work, handle the nasty confrontation. Show your team you are their to serve them, and morale will go up.
8. Remove The Road Block: Figure out what the one biggest stress point is that your employees are facing. Is it the detailed monotony of filling out timesheets? Is it a particularly nasty client no one likes to deal with? Find the problem and then step up and take it on yourself.
9. Change Of Scenery: Even in a great workspace emotions can fall when the physical environment stays the same. Get your team out of the office occasionally for a totally unique and different activity, like volunteering for a day at Habitat for Humanity. While everyone is out, have the office freshly painted with bright colors. The return to a clean space may just be the spark you need to instantly improve morale.
10. Nap Time: Ever have to have a critical conversation with your significant other when you were exhausted. You probably got pretty testy, right? Employees are people too. And if they don’t get enough rest, they will get testy and morale will suffer. Provide a quiet, dark “nap” room where employees can opt to lie down on a comfy couch, in a recliner, or even on a cot and take a 20-minute power nap to rev up their attitude. If you have employees that work overtime, or late hours this has been proven to increase their productivity as well as their mood.
11. Massage Day: Talking about getting testy. Have you ever have to deal with a difficult situation when you were in physical pain? I bet that got the negative attitude-juices flowing. Help increase the morale but helping your employees relieve pain and relax. There are hundreds of massage schools and thousands of massage therapists who do seated (all your clothes stay on!) massage in the workplace. They bring their special chair and employees get fast, but deeply satisfying shoulder and back massages on their break. Great treat for any staff that sits at a computer all day. Guaranteed to elevate the mood!
12. Get That Body Moving: That’s right. Take 15 minutes for everyone to dance. Not only does it get people’s blood and excitement pumping, it’s fun and it releases natural hormones that elevate people’s moods. All you need is a boom box or sound system. Better yet, make it casual day (if it’s not already) and have a professional dance instructor come in and teach a hip-hop, Zumba or other dance class for an hour.
Now that you have taken action to instantly improve morale, your job is to keep the momentum going. The key to that is regular communication and authentic leadership. I’ll teach you more about those strategies in an upcoming post.