Have you ever been in a staff meeting where those dreaded words were uttered:
We need morale to improve!
Managers hold these meetings and tell their staff to be more engaged. Whenever this is mentioned, it means there is an evident morale malaise and management wants the employees to fix it by bucking up and being happy to work. They ask a question they have no right to ask, as the staff are already directing that same question towards their leadership.
But does that fix the issue? Usually a morale problem stems from:
- Poor and detached leadership
- Unclear job expectations
- Lack of communication
- Difficult working conditions, systems, or environment
- Lack of integrity and character
- No appreciation or value given to employees
- Poor employees creating division
- The culture is simply not enjoyable
Those don't appear to be items employees fix, but instead are their leaders fix.
Leaders listen up: employees are not responsible for morale.
Leaders are. And leaders that instruct their people to improve morale miss the mark widely.
Great leaders know when morale is down even before it reaches a low point. And the best leaders know when the morale starts to level off, before it turns downward.
Leaders worth their salt take ownership of identifying and implementing steps to improve morale and get their people more engaged in the culture. They know it’s not the employee’s charge to change it; it’s theirs alone. But wise leaders are not afraid to ask what can be done and work alongside their people to make the needed changes to the organization’s culture.
Changing morale can happen in 6 easy steps:
- Remind and promote values
- Weave the vision through every task
- Promote positive, nip negative
- Give value to your people
- Connect with the teams and individuals in personal and professional ways
- Get your staff feeling confident in their voice, work, and contribution to the overall vision and culture
When leaders take direct and ultimate responsibility for the conditions at work, it resonates with their people who then commit to the efforts made on their behalf for a better working environment. Leaders must set the tone to lead morale as they should with every other aspect of the organization.
Improving morale is a noble effort. It’s just not the employee’s job.
More From Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership, strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.