How can leadership affect morale?
We have all worked with or have heard stories of bad leaders and managers - those who make common mistakes when overseeing employees, such as criticising people in front of other staff, having favourites or other behaviour that can reduce morale for the entire team.
Yet, the reality is even managers with the best of intentions often make mistakes that can be just as damaging to employee motivation and productivity. As the job market improves, these slip-ups can also affect turnover, so it’s especially important to make sure you’re not inadvertently alienating your staff.
Here are some ways to avoid making common mistakes that may be reducing morale in your team.
Keep employees in the loop
Your company has decided to sell a business unit, one that has little involvement with your team. So, you believe there isn’t any urgency in telling your employees. Unfortunately, by not telling staff about the situation right away, they may listen to rumours and believe there’s something to hide. It's always a wise move to be up-front about company developments, so people feel they are in the loop and know what to expect in the coming months.
While e-mails, memos and information on the company intranet can be useful in providing updates, try to hold group face-to-face discussions whenever feasible, particularly if company events will affect employees directly. This will allow people to ask you questions, which can ease concerns or anxiety about potential changes.
Ensure employees feel empowered
Another morale deflator is becoming too caught up in your staff’s responsibilities. While it may seem like you’re showing an interest and making sure you’re always there as a resource, what you’re really doing is micro-managing.
What motivates employees is being given the freedom to do their job the way they deem best. Try to empower people to make decisions and solve problems. In doing so, you’ll not only boost morale, but you’ll also find that you’re better able to focus on higher priority initiatives.
Think about the way you handle change. When business conditions are uncertain, it’s particularly tempting to go with the status quo. However, by avoiding innovation and risk, you may be implying that you don’t value your staff’s suggestions, which can cause people to lose respect for you as their manager. So, it's important to look to your employees for advice, follow through when people make good proposals and try to implement the best ones when feasible.
The way you handle recommendations can greatly affect whether your staff feel confident enough to make them in the first place.
Encourage a work-life balance
Also consider whether your team has been running at 110% for too long. If they have been asked to do more with less for an extended time, they are at high risk of not just having poor morale but also physical or mental distress.
Even if you can’t afford to hire more permanent staff to alleviate the problem, there are steps you can take to help. A good tip is to look at ways to redistribute and reprioritise tasks so the work isn’t so overwhelming. You might also consider bringing in temporary or project professionals to assist with peak workloads. Simply making sure employees take their breaks and use their annual leave entitlement can go a long way toward renewing energy and motivation.
Reward is everything
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of showing appreciation to your employees. Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to give bonuses or other material rewards, acknowledge the contributions of those on your team.
Praise during a meeting or an afternoon off are just a couple ways of offering meaningful thanks for a job well done. People who feel their managers notice their efforts are more likely to give their best to future assignments and maintain high morale.