Are you noticing a decrease in energy and excitement among your team? Are you hearing more sighs and seeing more rolled eyes than usual? Are your team members taking a sloppy approach to simple tasks?
If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, your team might be suffering from low morale. More than just a passing bad mood, low morale stems from a waning sense of job satisfaction, and can be due to any number of factors—increased pressure from management, a round of lay-offs, a particularly miserable client, and more.
But no matter what the cause, low morale requires a proactive response from you, as a manager. And while you may not be able to change what’s going on in the broader organization, you can foster an environment that’s more productive and rewarding for your own team. Get started with these tried-and-true tactics.
1. “Good Job” Goes a Long Way
Busy days turn into busy weeks, which turn into busy months and years—which means we often forget to stop and celebrate small successes. But taking a moment to recognize your team members for a job well done in their day-to-day work is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to boost morale.
That said, it’s important to recognize people the right way—you shouldn’t just hand out meaningless compliments. Take notice when someone has improved or gone above and beyond, and tell her that you were genuinely impressed with the particularly good work she did.
Also make sure to find opportunities to highlight the individual contributions of your team members in front of others. Giving recognition in front of higher-ups, clients, or at staff meetings can go a long way to making team members feel valued.
2. Set (Fun) Team Goals
Setting team goals is the backbone of every good management strategy. But while project goals, yearly performance metrics, and department-wide deliverables are all great motivators, they can also be hard to relate to on a daily basis.
So, work with your team to determine some immediate goals. They can be work-related, or they can even be goofy things like reaching a team bagel consumption goal or competing to find the weirdest daily news story. Giving the team something to work toward in the short-term (and rewarding them with prizes) is a great way build excitement.
3. Confront Frustrations Head On
Even with well-deserved compliments and concrete goals to work toward, it’s completely normal for your team members to experience moments of low team morale. But instead of waiting for these periods to naturally pass, use moments of frustration to seek feedback and look for solutions. Proactively find out from your team members why they’re feeling down and what you could do to better manage them. These conversations can be awkward at first, but they’re also a great way to get honest and helpful feedback.
To break the ice, try sharing a personal story about a time you were feeling frustrated with your workload or with a past manager. Also emphasize to each employee that you’re seeking her help in boosting team morale, and encourage her to make suggestions on how to improve the team dynamic.
4. Don’t Disrupt Schedules
Office morale often suffers if team members are feeling like they can’t meet their personal, social, or family obligations outside of work. As a manager, you should set up your team for professional success—but also help team members achieve goals in their personal lives.
An easy way to do this is to talk regularly with your team about their preferred weekly schedules. Find out which employees have standing appointments—book club on Wednesday evenings, yoga at 6 PM on Tuesdays, breakfast with a mentor on Mondays—and make it priority to accommodate those schedules. No, you won’t be able to work around everyone all the time, but if you’re helping your team members maintain a happy life outside of work, they’ll bring a better attitude to the office.
5. Learn From Each Other
When managing a group of people, it’s crucial to remind your team that it’s made up of individuals who bring diverse skills to the group. This, of course, applies to workplace skills—Excel, PowerPoint, public speaking—but don’t forget about the perhaps underutilized creative talents of your employees.
Every few weeks, try hosting a rotating “skillshare” (you can base it on the Skillshare model of learning anything from anyone) where a team member presents an untapped skill to the entire group. You never know—you might have a secret wine connoisseur, art history buff, or mini golf champ among you! Encouraging people to share their talents and interests will not only give them a chance to work on something they’re really excited about, it’ll also help the group to unwind together.
6. Go For Random Acts of Kindness
When new hires join the team, ask them to fill out a short questionnaire about their “favorites” (favorite candy, favorite flower, favorite magazine, favorite sports team). Keep this information on file, and use it when people could use an extra pick-me-up.
When someone’s been working late all week, surprise him with his favorite candy on Friday. Or, on someone’s birthday, get her a bouquet of her favorite flowers. Everyone appreciates random acts of kindness, but these gestures are more meaningful if you’ve put time into investigating and remembering gifts that they’ll actually enjoy.
7. Lead By Example
It’s impossible to be cheery 100% of the time, but stress and negativity are incredibly infectious. If your team is headed into a busy season or tough project, it’s important to come to work with a good attitude every day and to be diligent about minimizing your complaints in front of team members.
Remember, others will look to you to understand how to approach what’s going on in the organization and visualize the big picture perspective, and your outlook can set the tone for your entire team’s attitude.
Above all, remember that you as a manager need to make your team’s morale a top priority, 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.
And don’t forget to enjoy the process! After all, boosting morale will ultimately create a fulfilling and challenging work environment not just for your team, but for you, too.