Can’t seem to keep your workers from getting discouraged during a crisis? Try these 9 steps from The Wall Street Journal to optimize employee motivation in stressful times:
1. Be available for support.
Make sure to be available for questions your employees might have, be honest and avoid making promises that you can’t keep.
2. Don’t hover over your workers.
Have faith that your staff will figure things out on their own. Being available as a sounding board does not mean micromanaging everything they are responsible for. Tough times are an opportunity to build the bench strength of everyone on your team, but that won’t happen if you are shouldering the load of resolving the crisis.
3. Acknowledge hard work.
Compliment the efforts of a team member that has been performing admirably and encourage other members to follow their lead. It is always a good idea to honor a member’s major accomplishments. Don’t try to motivate people to work harder by promising rewards as research shows that this can be counter-productive as it puts extra pressure on them to achieve. Rewarding them for extra effort and accomplishments after they occur is fine.
4. Create opportunities to meet career goals.
Tough times can become exciting rather than stressful if they provide opportunities for your employee to grow and learn in ways that are important to them. Get to know each of your team members and find out what they want to get out of their jobs. Be accommodating to their needs and clearly suggest options that are available to them that would also help them address the challenges they are currently facing. This might include taking courses on project management, developing their leadership skills, or getting coaching to improve communication effectiveness.
5. Handle problematic workers.
Research shows that employee motivation of even your best staff is quickly drained by even one unmotivated workers. Be quick to address workers who simply can’t be motivated within their department, as they can and will bring down the morale of the others in the office. Offer alternative areas of work within a different department that might be more motivating for the problem worker. If this is not possible and if attempts to get the person in question do not work, consider letting them go. A generous severance package will cost your company far less than this negative employee’s influence is costing your team in productivity.
6. Stop rumors.
Be aware of the gossip going around the office. Small rumors can get way out of hand if they aren’t dealt with swiftly. Be honest and as transparent as possible. Handled well, this can be an opportunity to build trust with your team.
7. Prepare for the future.
In trying times, employees sometimes fear for their future and the future of the company. Involve your team in goal-setting so that they can feel more secure about the future and their place in it.
8. Change it up.
The atmosphere in a place of business can get a bit gloomy. Set aside some days to get the team out of the office for a change in perspective. Go to a charity event or plan a recreational day – anything that makes them feel good and takes them away from the stresses of the office will work.
9. Keep your own counsel.
Don’t let your own worries drift into the workplace. Compose yourself and keep your feelings private because it can provoke those around you. This is possibly the toughest role of a manager, as there will always be employees who you are closer to that you are tempted to confide your own troubles in. Avoid this at all costs as there are many ways it can backfire. If you do not have a supervisor to go to for support, find a colleague outside of the office who can help you vent and manage your own stress.
image: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr