Businesses have cut and budgets are still tight. Yes, there are some green shoots beginning to appear so things will probably get better but not at a fast pace.

The talent, those who make it all possible have borne the majority of the stress from this recession. They feel it most as they take pay cuts, furloughs and reduced benefits. They see friends and relatives lose jobs and it reminds them of how close to the edge they are. That’s stress.

Then things get a little better. Just a little. That’s when morale sinks. It’s odd, but that’s how it works. People’s nasty traits surface when they see signs of improvement for the business, but not for themselves.

If things are better wherever you are manager, be careful about getting new cars for the sales force or new furniture for the lobby. Anything new triggers the thought, “I wonder how much they spent on that!” (Not really a question, is it?)

The toughest auditors are those who have been under the gun through cut backs. They see every dime spent.

What to do?

Be sure that any high profile expenditures are covered with employees before the new goodies show up. Make sure they understand that some “things” need improving for the sake of growing the business and some of those things have to be done first, ahead of pay increases.

Show people on paper the monthly impact of giving a 2% raise to everyone. Help them understand costs. Show comparison with a single purchase of that new lobby furniture.

This may sound silly, it’s not. If it sounds silly, you probably have a morale problem. People do care. They want their business or organization to succeed. They want to be a part of a winning team. Help them understand what it takes to win.

Is explaining the cost of a sofa going to fix bad morale? No, but it’s a start.

The real key here is giving people a chance to be heard. That’s what they want. They want to know that your decision to get new cars or buy new furniture or get new computers took them into consideration. They matter.

The punchline? As people perceive that things are improving, they will expect to see improvements in their situations. The sooner management addresses this, the better.

If you’ve got morale issues, this is only one step to take of many. You can almost always identify one or two people responsible for group morale problems regardless of the group size. Open communication by management and intolerance for negativity will go a long way toward diffusing your morale problem.

Chris Reich
TeachU can help you solve morale issues.