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Been there... experienced that. From my experience, you can't. Unless you are involved in making the final decisions that will impact the lives and livelihoods of the employees, there's little you can do on your own.
If you are in a management position or a key decision maker, the best thing you can do is provide timely and honest information regarding the decisions that are being made on as regular a basis as possible. Schedule regular recurring meetings (or some other method of communication) where honest exchanges of information can take place. Set up an email or bulletin board where questions can be posted by employees and honest responses can be posted by management for everyone in the company to read.
Keeping your employees informed, and whenever possible, involved in the process may help to reduce the stress and helpless feeling that many people are probably feeling.
Be as human as possible and remember that this is their lives/careers and relationships with co-workers that are being impacted. They are not just a 'number' or a 'redundant position' that needs to be eliminated by the ivory tower people who will walk away with their golden parachutes.
Great answer by Wingman. The first step is to realize that there is low morale.
Every company and every situation is different.
As wingman said " Keeping your employees informed, and whenever possible, involved in the
Let me tell you a personal story. I am a Quickbooks Consultant and am consulting for a Non profit company
They recently let the Exec Director go. There are 5 or 6 key peolpe in the non profit.
They all sit around all day doing as little as possible from 9 to 5. There is no moral in this company
Now that the Exec Director has left they are all trying to impress the person doing the interviewing
how important their job is and how hard they work to keep the company going. I am NOT involved.
I am an outside consultant, BUT if I kept notes, I would have a great Novel
assuming you can impact it, I think it's time to make sure the top 70% really know they are valued. One of the things companies blow in this circumstance is not moving decisively to let the people know what is going to happen. So, it's critical to make these moves as fast as possible
Three keys are communication, acknowledgment, and a plan of action.
Communication - The more we can identify and communicate what's really going on, the more empowered people are to act. Communication is like shining a flashlight along a pitch dark path -- we can see if there is really anything to fear up ahead, and if so, discover how to avoid it.
Acknowledgment - Whatever happened up to this point has already happened. No one can undo it. The key is to acknowledge that this is how things are NOW. It's like a journey downriver and the raft just hit the whitewater rapids. People can debate the bad decision that led us here, and complain about how cold and rough the water is -- but the water and rocks truly don't care, and they'll sink the raft if someone doesn't take control and acknowledge that things have changed and everyone has to work together in a new way. Which means a . . .
Plan of Action - No matter how dire the situation, when people forget the past, acknowledge the present, decide how they want this to turn out in the future (set a goal), and unite to achieve that goal, they make progress -- and each step toward the goal raises morale.
I know, that's sort of a simple and incomplete response to a complex and serious question (but I'm trying to keep this shorter than an essay on the subject!). Hope it helps, and I hope things begin improving soon. Best wishes.
I hate to be the dissenting opinion, but excluding Lighthouse's response, I don't agree with the responses you've received so far.
You absolutely can impact the morale of your workplace, no matter who you are or what position you hold. Leaders don't always have to come from management. Some of your most valuable and effective leaders are working in the trenches, beside all those low-morale employees.
Change is always difficult, and it causes stress in the best of us, but there are many ways to overcome the stress and turn the anxiety into positive action that leads to progress and a buy-in to the change process, rather than an alienation from "what's happening."
If your workforce feels they are a positive "part" of the change, they will be motivated by it, anxious to see "better times ahead" and willing to make the usually stressful adaptations that are necessary to make the process flow smoothly.
Who "in the trenches" do the employees at your company look to for guidance? Who do they take their troubles to? Who is the "den mom" of the secretary pool? These are the employees that are in the position to make the changes less stressful and actually rally the troupes to promote it and buy-in to the new vision.
The first thing to realize is that change happens constantly. It is simply your turn to feel it first-hand. Everyone else feels it too, and survives, and so will you. The future will bring more change, it's a guarantee, so the companies that are best suited to dealing with it will be the ones who survive.
Helping others cope with and overcome the negative potential of change is what people who are referred to as change leaders, or change agents, do. But anyone can fill this role. There are only a few key skills required, and most of those come naturally to the people you work with that are already the "ring leaders" or "den moms" in your company's various departments. Get them together for a pow wow over lunch and give them these simple ideas to start mini-revolutions for POSITIVE change in each of your deprtments.
By far the most important skill is in communication (Lighthouse's answer is dead on here). Your change agents need to be able to encourage others to take ownership of the change and to adequately plan for it. It's more about removing barriers than solving problems. If everyone sits back and waits to see what the fallout will be like, nothing positive will come of the efforts management is making. So, jump in and make an overt effort to embrace the changes, the new individuals involved, the new stakeholders, and most especially their new ideas. Don't let misunderstanding arise, or rumors abound -- ask questions, ask what each of you can do to help make things move smoothly. Communicate openly! The PROCESS of change is far more disruptive than the course of the day once the changes are in place, so move it along, get it done quickly and efficiently. The new suits will love you for it and you'll soon realize that diferent is not necessarily worse.
So, what should you communicate? The truth! Always. People know when they're being misled. If you are not sure of the truthfulness of a rumor, DON'T SPREAD IT! Even if you do know it's true, if it's a morale killer, keep it to yourself unless it's important to the process of change or to the operations of your department. Then, put as positive a spin on it as you can, and if you can't, turn to humor -- see the examples below.
Provide a "big picture" of what the new future holds. Positive, secure, exciting! Would Disneyland be as fun if there was no pre-vacation hype about it? Do you wander into the Magic Kingdom thinking, "Awe, gee, this is going to be totally different than any other vacation I've had, that makes me nervous and uncomfortable." Of course not, you race in excited to experience something wonderful and new. Your company's new vision can be that. It's all a matter of attitude and perspective.
Stay constructive. Keep the imagery, goals, vision of the future, and pre-vacation hype positive and motivating.
Stay consistent. Verbal, written and even nonverbal forms of communication need to be consistent with the culture you are trying to build. Make sure your 'walk' and your 'talk' support each other.
Stay continuous. Keep that reinforcement coming. Compare what your attitude would be like if you saw only one ad for Disneyland three months before your trip, as opposed to watching ads on the Disney channel everyday. Which will keep your morale up? You, and others in the "trenches" can be that Disney channel. Every day, several times a day, reinforce that new image of a bright and exciting future.
That said, there will be people who are less able to adapt than others. Be there for them. Encourage others to be there for them as well. And not just fellow employees, but friends and family also. Show them empathy -- be someone they know will listen that they can express their concerns to. Provide an intellectual understanding of what happened and what is going to happen -- remember that information is reassuring. Express ideas you and others have come up with for "moving on." Solicit ideas from them, the more they contribute to the growing bucket-o-change ideas (in one company I worked with they actually had a big galvanized bucket that people would stick their ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and not a small number of gripes, on. Then, after department heads addressed them they were thrown into the bucket. Mangers pretty much HAD to address questions and ideas, or the bucket would get completely covered and they would be shown as uncaring (peer pressure with the dept. head next door whose bucket was still shiney metal) -- the more they contribute, the better.
Keep the information flowing. You don't have to be the boss to find this stuff out. Ask questions, talk to others, heck, google it! Post notes on bulletin boards with positive things you've found out (with the change comes newer upgraded equipment, or better benefits, or whatever) -- there will be improvements -- companies are not stupid -- these changes are meant to increase the company's productivity and value. Your reputation improves right along with the company's, so do whatever you can to facilitate these improvements and your own value will rise.
Don't rely only on email to communicate either. It's a great invention, but it does not reassure and you cannot "infect" others with your great attitude nearly as effectively through email. Face-to-face is where this is at.
Most important, keep all that communication flowing on a two-way street. Solicit comments, ideas, and suggestions from everyone else. Each person who becomes part of the improvement now has a stake in its success. Offer rewards (nothing fancy) to the person each week who comes up with the most motivating story or idea. Keep it fun and exciting. laugh, smile, and crack a few jokes. Remember the ultimate comfort food -- ice cream!
In closing, take a lesson from some BIG companies who were struggling at one time with change... Feel free to post these on the bulletin boards, or send one out daily in an email...
1) In dealing with mandates for DuPont employees to trim travel expenses, ideas on how to do so were posted on bulletin boards. One such post encouraged employees to trim travel expenses by hitchhiking to business destinations, bunking with friends, and ducking meal checks with the old "dine - n - dash" routine.
2) At General Motors, a list was circulated -- inspired by David Letterman's Top 10 Lists. Titled "The Top 10 Reasons Lemmings March to the Sea", the list included items such as #10: "It's their corporate direction," and #1: "They heard the Japanese were doing it."
3) At IBM, casualties of "Management Initiated Attrition" (fired employees) were referred to as MIAs. And a few malcontents toyed at one point with the idea of adding "Or Thwim" to the company's ubiquitous "THINK" signs.
4) At Digital Equipment Corp., which slashed 20 percent of its work force in the mid-90s, the circulated email riddle read: "What's the difference between DEC and Jurassic Park? One is a high-tech theme park full of dinosaurs. The other is a Steven Spielberg movie."
5) Proctor & Gamble workers used to skewer current (back then) chairman Ed Artzt's penchant for acronyms. Leading into the turn of the century, the company's plan was to eliminate 12 percent of its workforce, or 13,000 jobs, under a program called "Strengthening Global Effectiveness," or SGE. Workers were overheard often telling others that SGE stood for "Say Good-bye to Ed."
6) Finally, General Electric Chairman Jack Welch (again, late 90s) had the nickname Neutron Jack for his ability to eliminate thousands of people and still leave the buildings standing.
Humor really can be an amazing medicine. Lighten up and watch others around you follow.
Hope this helps. Keep in touch with what happens, and if you need or want any advice, don't hesitate to ask. It's what I do, and I love doing it. Take Care.
You've got some great input.
Let me add that morale isn't a thing. Its the result of a bunch of things.
Know what caused the morale and work on that. Stated another way, don't address the symtoms, address the cause. Company picnics and bonuses and newsletters don't cut it if the cause is that no one ever takes the time to say, one-on-one, "Thank you. You're doing a nice job here. I particulary liked it last week when you ...." Or they won't say "Can we talk. I'm happy to have you in our company, but I didn't like what you did last week when you .... It caused a problem that you may not be aware of ..."
Listen, ask opinion leaders in a no-penalty mode, find out the causes and then work on the causes.
Serenity....God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;The courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
YOU POSTED THE SAME QUESTION BACK IN JANUARY.
SORRY ABOUT THAT LAST POST
Humor is the best medicine!
(As long as it is at no ones expense)
Be honest and human with your employees. Keep them informed. The rumors and speculation do more harm than good to morale.
People just want to know what is going on and how it might effect them. A little understanding goes a long way.
Keep the employees informed - communicate, communicate, communicate! In my experiences along these lines, I have found that rumors are unfounded truths. What I mean by this is if someone doesn't have definitive information, they start making it up which results in untruth, i.e. rumors!
As everyone has commented already, COMMUNICATION is the key! To take it a step farther, keep this in mind: when people don't have answers and are fearful, the imagination takes over. As humans we naturally assume the worst and will react very negatively because of it. The only way to prevent this is to keep people informed, involved and make sure that your employees feel valued!