Employee morale is a tricky topic for any business owner. It can be hard to build, difficult to measure, and unfortunately all too easy to kill.
So many things can affect morale that it can be a difficult one to get right. Non-work related issues that your workers are dealing with and how well they're being supported can also affect how they feel within the workplace.
With so many things to consider, how can you make sure you get it right? I wish I knew! But what I do have experience of are a few of the easiest ways to kill morale in your workplace. Here they are along with my thoughts on how to avoid them.
Repeat after me: 'my way is not always the best way'. It can be hard to surrender responsibility to other people, especially when it's your own business – believe me I still struggle with it now. But, if you don't give your staff some responsibility, and let them get on with what you are paying them to do, it can be hugely damaging for morale.
After all, no one likes to think that their boss doesn't trust them. When I can feel myself starting to micro-manage I remind myself that I hired my employees for a reason – they're highly capable – and I need to take a step back.
Not saying thank you
In my experience a little gratitude goes a long way and never thanking your team is a surefire way to kill employee morale. Thanking your team, or individuals, doesn't have to mean a grand gesture that requires a big budget; a simple (and genuine) thank you for a job well done is often all the recognition people need to feel valued. In fact, research shows that employees who receive recognition are much more likely to rate their workplace as fun.
Expecting staff to work late
Long hours are often the price you pay for setting up your own business – I know I am certainly guilty of leaving the office later than I'd like most evenings. But if you start expecting staff to put in extra hours all the time, morale will almost certainly take a hit and stress levels (and possibly resignations) will almost certainly rise.
While I didn't necessarily expect staff to stay late, I did set a bad precedent, so when I noticed that there were regularly still people at their desks well after 6 p.m. I made it clear that I didn't expect everyone to work more than the hours they were paid for. I even tried leaving on time myself a few days and do you know what? I definitely felt more engaged and productive when I was at work. Win, win.
Not following through
Better coffee in the kitchen? No problem. A personalized training plan for all members of staff? I'll get right on it.
If you want to be a good boss, it's easy to find yourself saying 'yes' to your team's requests, only to have to let them down further down the line when it turns out what they wanted isn't in the budget or realistic time-wise.
I've certainly got myself in hot water with this before and my team's morale was probably lower when I didn't deliver on my promises that if I'd just said no in the first place…
Hiding in your office
After working in offices where I never saw my manager from one day to another and seeing the effect it had on morale, one of the first things I did when I set up on my own was to instigate an open-door policy. Not only does it mean my team feels comfortable approaching me with any problems, big or small, but they can also just pop in to say 'hi' if they feel like it and they can see I'm actually working too!
Never making the coffee
It may seem like a really trivial thing but I think putting the coffee pot on every now and again shows staff you value them and recognize that their work and time are just as important as yours. Remembering how everyone takes their java fix is an added bonus.
What do you think affects morale in your office? Let me know in the comments.
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