Rebuilding Staff Morale

When an organisation is going through a restructuring process, there can often be a negative impact on general morale and confidence due to changes in individual or departmental responsibilities and or staffing levels.

However, there can also be a negative effect upon efficiency and productivity in other situations, e.g. when a major contract has been lost; or there are cuts in staff benefits or employees are required to work longer hours etc.

Although employees may do their utmost to work hard even when morale is low, nevertheless enthusiasm, creativity, motivation and productivity can all suffer as a consequence.

So whose role is it to identify the signs and take the required action? Well, the recommended way forward is for the HR director to take the lead with all in his/her department working alongside each other by reinforcing the same message. At all times of organisational change, whether large or small, all employees need the reassurance of the organisation’s commitment and vision in going forward and to feel a valued part of that future.

Signs of Low Morale

Some of the warning signs that might affect individual teams within a department, or within the organisation as a whole, include: increased absenteeism, leave of sickness, interpersonal or inter-departmental conflict and reduced morale and enthusiasm.

Action should be taken as soon as any of these signs are recognised by managers who should demonstrate themselves as being positive role models, even when their own morale might have dipped.

It is important that the manager needs to be aware of how their own attitude is being seen by others. They may not immediately realise that their own behaviour is not conducive to raising motivation levels within their own team. So they will need to ensure that they exude confidence and optimism, even if they themselves are sometimes less than optimistic. Within management, the skill of appearing to be up-beat is an essential attribute.

Now you may ask me, how can they achieve this? Well, think about the situation. Your team are looking to you for inspiration and guidance and if you exhibit confidence, then they will also.

Try these strategies in order to understand the nature of the issue:

Providing learning opportunities:
If the organisation has downsized, then use this opportunity to raise the personal development levels (CPD) of those who remain. Ensure that assessments and training are available whilst looking for ways to develop individual potential within your team. It may be that certain individuals may be required to do a different job to the one they were doing previously and may need re-skilling or on-the-job re-assessment.

Develop a positive relationship with the team:
Regularly ‘walk the talk’. Instead of sitting at your desk all day, start walking around the department. This will enable you to ‘touch base’ about personal events that are happening both inside and outside of the office, thereby building rapport and trust and resolving small issues before they become large ones.

Increase staff autonomy
Encourage your managers to delegate tasks and responsibilities and to ensure that all staff are all fully accountable for their actions. Employees should be encouraged to work to agreed goals which should be celebrated when they are achieved in order to encourage others to follow suit.

Clear direction
Employees should be completely clear as to what is expected of them and within what time-frame. Encourage them to identify the impact of their role upon the ‘bigger picture’, as it is all too easy to work in isolation without feeling part of the team.

Retain your talent
At times of organisational change, this is precisely the time when you do not want to lose your best talent, owing to low morale. These are the very people who will probably find it the easiest to get a job elsewhere – so you need to hold on to them! Ensure that timely conversations take place as to how they see their career progression and how to reinforce how the organisation values their skill and expertise.

The secret is to make your people feel valued and important – particularly during times of change. That way, motivation and morale will remain strong and company loyalty, firm. Now that can only be good idea!

Key points

  • Organisational change can affect morale
    Retaining key talent is vital
    Increase staff morale by leadership example

Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.
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Accountability is a State of Mind

People may want to be leaders, however not many want to accept the accountability that goes with it. However, you cannot have one without the other as they are the two sides of the same coin.

Last week, I was in a meeting with a client, the CEO of a London company who said to me ‘I wish my people would accept responsibility for their own actions and personal behaviour, instead of trying to shift the blame elsewhere’. He said that the most important quality that he looks for in an employee seeking promotion is the acceptance of personal accountability. However, he also said that several of his managers, over the years, had not fully realised when they accepted a managerial position that it also included the consequences of taking responsibility when things went wrong.

‘The Buck Stops Here’

The former US President, Harry S Truman, kept a sign on his desk which read: ‘The buck stops here!’ It means that you accept the responsibility for whatever happens in your department under your watch.

Every organisation needs to maintain a culture of personal accountability. Unaccountable people are full of excuses as they explain that they were unaware of the situation, or that some other individual was responsible for the error. They are always quick to complain about something going wrong but are invariably slow in their response to do anything about it.

A lack of accountability is unhealthy in any organisation and many managers leave this type of company because they cannot work in an environment in which no-one will take ownership of their own actions.

Accountability means that you accept the consequences of your decisions – not forgetting, both good and bad. It means more than just performing your specific role. It includes an ability to work for the common good and ultimately to further the goals of the organisation. Continue reading

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Managing the ‘Workplace Rebel’

In your department, you head-up a number of teams of talented employees and everyone works well alongside each other, apart from Maryam and James. These are the two individuals who give you a headache every time you come into the office. James is a high performer but he always has an opinion that is contrary to your own and makes it known regularly. Maryam, on the other hand, irritates her team by constantly criticising everyone on not only what they do but in the way that they do it!

You have tried to ignore the situation but it has now got to the stage where it is necessary to intervene in order that productivity is not affected. These two, Maryam and James, are what I would call ‘workplace rebels’, who can damage their teams by electing to question every decision.

Rebellious or innovative?
Rebels like to challenge the status quo – sometimes for the sake of it and sometimes because they genuinely believe that they are right and others are wrong. In the workplace, that means that they can tend to question authority, policies, procedures and the opinions and ideas of team members.

The challenge for you, as departmental head, is to manage their dissenting views in a way that works for the team and not against it. Rebels can be a valuable asset by bringing about positive change through the identification of working practices that could be improved and, provided that is the case, then this could be a benefit for the company. The problem is that some of their views may be unnecessary or impractical.

Rebels are usually direct so if you want an honest opinion, the chances are they will give it to you. They will usually stand up and be counted for what they believe in and so can be passionately committed to the company’s vision and what they stand for. They are not necessarily frightened about challenging existing processes and introducing their own creative ideas which they believe can bring about innovative methods of working.

Managing dissent
Of course, the easiest attitude is just to ignore the rebel but, as the manager, it is your responsibility to manage his, or her, behaviour. It is a fine balance between exploiting their potential for the eventual benefit of the organisation whilst insisting that you are paid, and are qualified, to manage the department in the best way that you think fit and in-line with company policy.

So what can you do to work alongside the rebel?

First of all, try to understand what underlies the rebel’s behaviour. Is it that they feel isolated or frustrated because they are unable to bring the benefits of their proposals to the attention of the company and feel that, as a result, the company is denied the advantage of their claimed creativity. Is it that they feel ignored – and we all know what it is like to feel ignored! It just makes us angry.

Secondly, open up a conversation with the individual to explain in detail that the company as a whole, including your department, works to accepted practices that have been discussed and implemented by order of senior management. That does not mean that suggestions for improvement are not welcome but that existing methods of working and company policy must be adhered to in detail. Every army has to have a commander and every organisation must implement company policy as laid down.

Thirdly, try to channel their energies into a specific project that will stimulate them and give them an opportunity to prove some of their proposals within existing work parameters and the status quo. From that experience, they can learn from the results.

Finally, spend time coaching them to be indispensable members of the team. They need to understand that they need to work as a team alongside others who have different strengths from themselves and that only by working together, as team members, can a desired result be obtained for the benefit of the organisation.

Rebels can be valuable assets who can bring a wealth of innovative ideas to the table. However, just as an engine needs, oil, gas, a gearbox, wheels and brakes in order to move forward safely, so does an organisation need teams, and teams members, all working together, to be successful.

  • Key Points
    The power of a company is its people
    Don’t discourage debate, but encourage innovation
    Organisational success is through team effort

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