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Improve employee morale

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employee morale
What actions can managers and leaders take to improve employee morale?
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Improve employee morale; how productive leadership can impact workplace culture

Employee morale affects every facet of an organization's culture, productivity and profitability. Employees who are happy in their job, and with their employer, perform better; and this benefits every stakeholder in an organization or corporation. How can managers and leaders work to improve employee morale? 

"Everything a leader does, or doesn't do, impacts employee morale at some level," explains nationally noted Leadership Consultant and author David A. O'Brien. O'Brien's 2008 book, The Navigator's Handbook: 101 Leadership Lessons for Work and Life, explores the impact of productive leadership versus destructive leadership on employee morale.

O'Brien describes productive leadership as "supportive, encouraging, respecting and developing" whereas destructive leadership is "condescending, criticizing, egotistical, evasive and aggressive." According to O'Brien, leaders have tremendous influence to improve employee morale. Here are five steps that managers can take to improve employee morale.

  • Practice candor, transparency and authentic communication - Open communication is one of the most effective ways to reduce employee anxiety and build a culture of trust. Gossip is the mark of an unhappy or demoralized workplace and candor, which builds credibility, is the best way to fight it. Even when information is unpleasant or troubling, honesty and frank discussion will often lead employees to rise to the task of improving a difficult situation. 
  • Practice active listening - Active listening is a particularly important aspect of valuable communication in the workplace. Today's successful manager must also be an adviser, counselor, coach and trainer, who makes a point of listening to the needs, concerns and opinions of every employee.
  • Develop a clear company mission statement - Run a conference, meeting or event that involves every employee in the development of this mission statement. Discuss the corporate philosophy, ethics, future outlook, goals and challenges. This method of corporate engagement allows everyone to feel involved and invested in the future direction of the company.  Employees today are concerned with the values of their employers.  Make sure the mission statement is one in which the employees can take pride.
  • Promote a "family" or "team" atmosphere - Simple methods to achieve this type of atmosphere include practices such as company barbeques, picnics, or soft ball games.  Many companies and organizations engage in more extensive and dynamic team building events such as trips, retreats, workshops, or even scavenger hunts.  These fun forms of social interaction impart an atmosphere of cooperation on a workplace.
  • Motivate employees and management - Businesses that are too focused on the negative may contribute to a downward spiral in employee morale.  Motivate employees by focusing on the positive.  Ask your employees what they are looking for out of their work.  What makes them feel fulfilled, interested and enthusiastic?  Understanding the ambitions of individual employees enables managers to better help each employee to reach his or her goals, thereby improving employee morale.  Employees will feel empowered and respected as their career goals are realized.
  • Practice appreciation and gratitude - As children, we first learned the importance of the magic words "please" and "thank you".  These magic words hold especially true in the workplace!  Acknowledge and celebrate the successes of every employee, regardless of where they are on the career ladder.  On special occasions, a hand-written note from the President or CEO can go a long way to improve employee morale and express gratitude.  Many companies have developed employee recognition programs designed to praise an employee of the month or provide bonuses that reward employees for their efforts.

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