5 Ways You Can Improve Team Morale During Tough Times
Updated: Jun 10
We’ve been navigating through life and work like everyone else. Once we got past the initial shock of how everything changed, we felt energized by the new possibilities of what might lay ahead. But now, into month four of the pandemic, admittedly we’re feeling a bit ground down, frustrated and yearning for the bygone days of ‘normal’. And the conversations we’re having with friends, acquaintances and strangers, have been relatable, with been some pleasantly surprising viewpoints thankfully sprinkled among the concerning ones.
Let’s start with a refreshing perspective that came from a short chat with a retail worker a few days ago, who when asked how things were going for them, cheerily replied, “I’m great! I have a job and I get to go to work every day.” Have to say, it took us a bit by surprise. But what a wonderful and refreshing point of view. Yes, they are one of the fortunate ones who are still employed, but instead of focusing on all the things that could be wrong with that picture, chose instead to be grateful and positive and pass that attitude on to someone else who had cared enough to take the time to ask how they were doing.
Unfortunately, that positive outlook appears to be the exception rather than the rule, with the majority of responses falling on the other side of the fence.
“We’ve worked so hard over the last couple years to build what we are, and now to think that we could lose it all, or at best have to downsize is just so hard, frustrating and heartbreaking.”
“Morale is pretty low around here. Just trying to focus on doing what’s best for our clients. It would help if they’d stop piling project on top of everything else right now. No one has the time or energy for that stuff.”
“Leadership. Ha. How about the lack of empathy and understanding around here? Let’s talk about that for a minute.”
And on, and on.
People are feeling the stress and the longer it goes on, the more it impacts not just them, but everyone around them. It’s contagious! Morale is taking a hit. No question. We have five tips to keep in mind that can help you support your team and go along way towards fighting that feeling of hopelessness.
Begin by setting aside the typical morale building exercises that you find again and again if you’re looking to the experts. Let’s face it, team-building exercises, employee awards and recognition, creating a healthy work environment and all the other classics, just aren’t going to cut it for the problems we’re facing now. Those are long-term solutions and we need to deal with our team members’ stress and anxiety today. Now. As soon as possible.
1. Don’t overthink things. Focus on today. Forget about all the pundits and fortune tellers whose vision for the future is at best, a guess, since no one knows what the future of the workplace is going to look like. There is no end of scientific evidence that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, it doesn’t cost a cent and you can start immediately. Focus on the short-term. What needs to happen today and tomorrow. Act on that. It will give you and your team a healthier sense of control and progress.
2. Show you care! People want to know the boss gives a ‘you know what’ about them and what they’re going through. Period. It has been proven time and time and time again that a boss who genuinely cares about their team and staff, improves morale, engagement, and in the lexicon of an old sports analogy, will have a team that will ‘skate through a wall for them’. Showing up in the middle of the chaos to ask your people on the ground how they’re doing and how you can help, can be magical. So, pick up the phone.
3. This is a period of great uncertainty and forced change. It’s scary on so many levels. Now is not the time to be holding things tight and adding even more vagueness and ambiguity to the picture. What people don’t know, they will make up, and more often than not, it will be the worst-case scenario. Put an end to the rumours and level with your staff. Tell them the facts, acknowledge the uncertainty, and then show them how you’re doing your best to support them. Trust goes a long way and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just tell the truth.
4. People are having to figure out how to do their jobs and serve their clients in brand new ways and on the fly. That takes time and energy and let’s face it, the last thing they need is to be trying to split that precious time and focus with long-term projects that provide no immediate positive impact on today’s challenges. As a leader, it’s up to you to prioritize what justifies attention now, and what can wait. Lessen the burden, rather than adding to it.
5. Listen. Listen. Listen. And then adjust who you are as a leader and how you show up every day. Pay attention to what your team is trying to tell you. Your job is to give your people whatever support they need (tools, time, answers, admin support, resources, etc.) to get the job done and serve whoever it is you exist to serve. As Robert K. Greenleaf teaches, ‘The servant leader ensures that other people’s highest priority needs are being served’. Now is the time to set aside your long-term goals, political motivations, and anything else that gets in the way of what has to be done to keep everyone whole and doing their best work today.
So, back to that initial quote.
“I’m great! I have a job and I get to go to work every day.”
This is what we should all be shooting for. Simple, refreshing, positive and hopeful. What a great way to frame a conversation with your peers and your team!
It certainly made us sit up and rethink a rather glum day last week.
If you’d like help figuring out how best to restore some energy to your team, click here and contact us.