There are those days where your team just doesn’t seem to be into it. They’re disengaged, lethargic, and their focus is scattered all over the place. There has been no progress made on the tasks that were scheduled to be finished this week.
These instances are all signs of decreasing team morale. Don’t worry though – they happen to every organization. Fixing the problem is just a matter of what to do about it, and when.
To make sure that you recognize these signs and can remedy the situation, here are the top 3 reasons for low morale, and the best ways to reverse it.
Being recognized and receiving praise can be one of the most rewarding feelings we can experience. People often put a tremendous amount of effort into their given craft just to have a shot at basking in the light of public recognition.
According to renowned motivation expert and speaker Garrison W. Wynn, recognition is the most important factor when it comes to employee engagement. And engagement has a direct relationship with team morale.
According to a 2010 business study conducted on employee engagement at Best Buy published in the Harvard Business Review, a measly 0.1% increase in employee engagement added an additional $100,000 of annual operating income to the bottom line of each store.
If this is a factor in why your team’s morale is down, there’s a silver lining: it’s one of the easiest problems to fix.
A simple “Good Job!” or “I noticed how much work you put into that,” goes a long way in making someone feel valued. Having their hard work recognized, whether it’s in private or public, definitely makes one feel valued and more inclined to keep up and/or improve their output. “It’s about making a person feel good about themselves even when they feel challenged or are in tough times,” says Richard S. Wellins, co-author of Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best In Others.
With that said, it’s important to keep in mind a few things when giving recognition.
First, only give recognition to those who truly deserve it. The last thing you want is the value of your praise and recognition declining because you dole it out for every little thing.
This second point should be obvious, but do not make use of patronizing praise to make fun of employees in any way. This will have the opposite effect when you do give genuine recognition and lower the morale even more.
And lastly, as mentioned before, praise can be given in public or private. Discretion needs to be used here as to which one is appropriate. Although public recognition seems like it’d be the most beneficial, if the praise involves personal matters with the employee, it’s better to play it safe and keep it behind closed doors.
When your team is organized, and a set structure is put in place, each individual has a clear idea of how everything works. The rules, schedules, deadlines, etc. are easily defined and no one is left in the dark.
The opposite of this is when nothing is in place. Every team member is doing their own thing exactly the way they want to do it. Collaborative projects become nightmares because there’s no set structure in place. Time restraints and schedule conflicts can bring the team morale down even further.
The permanent solution to this will take some time, but a quick fix to yield immediate results can be as simple as laying down some ground rules.
Hierarchy, schedules, deadlines, SOPs, and other work essential elements should be clear from the get-go for everyone. This way, the whole team will be on the same page and have a clear understanding of what’s going on.
A word of caution here: organizing your team and micromanaging your team are two different things. Make sure that once the entire team has a basic understanding of what you’ve put together, you give them space and allow for creativity and exploration of their individual working style.
Maybe some will end up working a bit more disorganized than we’d like. But if that’s how results are generated from those individuals, then why try to fix it? Organization is one of those things that is better to have and not need. And some absolutely need it while other flourish doing things their own way.
We all know the importance of leading by example if we want to be followed. The saying “do as I say, not as I do,” is often used to describe those who fail to practice what they preach.
There are few things that sink team morale faster than a hypocritical leader.
Children emulate their parents as they grow up. They copy their behavior, speech, and even mannerisms in search of their own individual identity.
The same behavior exists in employees, except that they’re in search of their team-specific identity. As a leader, we have a responsibility to make sure our employees are exposed to the right behaviors befitting for them to emulate, just like a parent has that same responsibility to their children.
When an example is set by those in charge, the rest tend to follow that example. Criticism and admonition from the leaders against the very same example set by them is what plummets team morale.
Confusion sets in for some, while others feel betrayed and even jealous that the rules don’t apply to those in higher positions on the team.
The best way to address this is also extremely simple: practice what you preach.
It’s simple, but not necessarily easy. We all know what the ideal employee would be like. We all can envision that perfect teammate. But it’s a different story actually being and personifying it to the fullest.
That is however, the beauty of it all. We are able to relate to our team regarding the difficulties involved. We can address these issues with them, and it helps us much better understand their problems when they come to us for guidance.
“Above all, remember that you as a manager need to make your team’s morale a top priority,” says writer Ashley Fidel, “and you need to be consistent and strategic with your efforts. One-off pizza parties are not the ticket to good morale—but regularly communicating with your team, actively responding to feedback, and recognizing accomplishments will go a long way.”
These 3 reasons are the major examples that hinder most teams from reaching their full potential.
Boosting team morale isn’t a difficult task. Just like anything else, it’s a matter of identifying what it is that’s bogging the team down, and then addressing it appropriately.