How to Keep Team Morale High During Difficult Times
There is not a successful company in the world that hasn't faced its share of hard times. Whether it be a mass exodus of leadership, a shift in goals and objectives, or a lack of resources and funding, there will be times when your employees will find themselves overwhelmed, confused, and on edge. Disengaged employees cost companies up to $550 billion a year in lost productivity; not to mention the hiring and onboarding costs to replace them. The facts are there: if you're not giving them a reason to stay, they won't. After the initial panic and fear sets in, it's time to regroup and reignite the enthusiasm amongst your team. As their manager, it's your obligation to keep the wheels in motion and keep your team as motivated as possible to do their best work.

1. Treat them like people

Your team does not consist of a workforce of minions who work tirelessly for you regardless of the situation. They are and will be mentally and emotionally affected by any negative hit to the company. Taking interest in their wellbeing and acknowledging that the company is going through a rough patch is what distinguishes a leader from a boss. Take your team's temperature regularly. Schedule more frequent one-on-ones with them to check in on how they're doing personally. The sooner your team can trust you, the sooner you'll see them jump back on track.

2. Be transparent

This cannot be emphasized enough. So many things happen behind closed doors and it's a common misconception that what you don't know, can't hurt you. When in fact, it can and then some. A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 37% of workers were more likely to leave their jobs due to a poor opinion about their boss's performance due to lack of transparency. The key to transparency is fostering trust and respect (that goes both ways!) between executives and employees. Without understanding why certain decisions are being made, in addition to not even being considered in the decision making process, can make your team feel powerless and dispensable to the company. In a 2013 Harvard Business Review employee engagement survey, 70% of those surveyed say they’re most engaged when senior leadership continually updates and communicates company strategy. Institute a process of relaying and including your team in key business decisions. Their input could not only help find a solution to the problem quicker, but also make them feel valued at the organization.

3. Focus on wins

During this time, it's incredibly important to celebrate any achievement, regardless of how small. With morale low, your team needs the confirmation that their work is still valued and making a positive impact. Hold regular meetings with your team and highlight at least one weekly achievement. This could be anything from slightly higher email open rates to meeting an important project deadline. You'll find that calling out little wins will boost positivity and confidence across your team during a time where their confidence is probably substantially lower, and reassure them that regardless of what's going on at the executive level, they should just focus on what they can control.

4. Ask for feedback

You might not want to hear it, but it's necessary to determine what is really going on with your team. Their candid feedback will allow you to truly assess the level of chaos that's ensued and help your team feel they have a voice in the matter. Address their concerns with honest transparency (see above) and a clear direction of the constructive actions you plan to take. Try to avoid vague questions that come with vague answers like, "how are you doing?" and get as specific as possible. Some questions you might want to ask include:
  • How are the changes in the company affecting you personally?
  • How do you think the team is handling these changes?
  • What can I do better to help you stay productive?
  • What changes would you like to see at the company/team level?

5. Plan a team outing

In the words of the great Benjamin Franklin: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Plan something fun to get your team's mind off the madness. Happy hours, scavenger hunts, and craft nights are great reasons to get out of the office and focus on relationship building. Check out our complete list of team building games for more ideas. Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities

Leading Your Team Through a Crisis

In the end, as a manager, it's up to you to gauge the level of concern on your team and eliminate any additional stress that is hindering their performance. Negativity stemmed from company changes can be extremely contagious and spread uncontrollably, so kill the infection at its source and focus on fostering trust and positivity. With that plan, your team is sure to weather any storm.
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