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Don’t Let Low Morale Halt Growth

Despite the recent good news about the U.K. dragging itself out of recession, there are still signs of weakness in many sectors. With companies like Ford announcing 1,400 job losses and the electrical chain Comet entering administration, a return to the sustained positive growth that we enjoyed in the mid-2000s seems far away. James Manktelow is CEO of MindTools.com .

Because of the current gloom, and because of industry-specific factors, morale has suffered in many organisations. People’s productivity has declined as a result. Enthusiasm, energy and creativity are at a low ebb, people are taking fewer positive risks, and important problems stay unsolved. This is why it’s so important for you, and for other leaders, to make a conscious effort to boost morale and build positivity in your organisation. So, how should you go about this, while also keeping the focus on achieving day-to-day goals? First make sure that your leaders are continuing to communicate an inspiring vision of the future to their teams.Start by communicating the real, human value of the work that your people are doing, and then explain how your organization will do even more of this in the future. This provides direction, helps people understand their priorities, and paints a positive picture of where they and the organisation will be in the coming months and years.This should be summarized in your organisation’s mission and objectives – make sure that employees know how their own goals tie into those of their team and of the wider organisation.

Next, encourage managers to talk with team members on an individual basis to understand their needs, and to make sure that everyone has the skills and equipment to do their jobs well. Here, it’s important to deal with any frustrations that people are having – even a broken printer or an uncomfortable workspace can have a negative effect on someone’s morale. Managers can also use this as an opportunity to give people tasks and projects that best suit their individual skills, personalities, and career goals.

Regular, sincere, praise is another very effective – yet underused – way to boost morale and make people feel good. Encourage managers to use the principles behind the “Losada Ratio” when giving feedback; this ratio, developed by psychologist Marcial Losada, highlights that people perform best when they experience at least three positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Managers should try to better this 3:1 ratio when interacting with their people.

Managers and team members also need to communicate effectively with one another, especially in uncertain times. Eliminate rumours at work by building a culture of transparency, where all employees are kept up to date on organisational developments. Ensure that managers regularly meet with their teams, and are sharing organisational news and updates with their people. Keep staff up-to-date with emails or by using your organisation’s intranet blog to publish updates, and consider taking advantage of social media tools like Yammer and Twitter, so that the organisation’s leaders can interact with employees and keep them “in the loop”.

Finally, find new and interesting ways to reward people for their good work – rewards like flexible working, donations to charity, team lunches, and even handwritten thank-you notes are great for helping people feel more positive.

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