Many times in business, much like in life, a person’s perspective determines one’s morale or attitude more so than any actual situation does. Many companies will make statements such as, “the morale of the team is down because of recent company changes, cuts in benefits and employee layoffs.” These issues are real and the impact it has on people is real as well. Let’s not diminish real emotions tied to these issues that cause morale to be low. However, to improve morale is to change the team’s perspective versus looking for a golden answer. An organization can spend all their time focusing on these changes and continue to experience negative emotions, or they can choose to change the perspective of their people. Which do you think is more productive and advantageous?
In some situations a company may hire a motivational speaker to speak to their group about a tragedy and as a result, the audience gets motivated and is eager to make the best of their personal situation. Why is that? What happened was a change of perspective.
When a leader is faced with low employee morale, their job is to hold their team members accountable by teaching the team members to be grateful before they can be successful and happy even if they are not necessarily content.
A person must be grateful before they can be successful
Everybody can be grateful for what they have, but more often than not we forget to think about the good. In one room a young couple is disappointed when they find out they are having a baby girl instead of a baby boy, where just across the street there is a young couple grateful for the 6 hours they have with their newborn baby before she passes away. In the business world it is no different. In Dallas, a gentleman is upset and feels like he is not treated fairly because due to company financial struggles, they remove company cars and increase the current work loads to make up for those that were laid off. In the same city, a man and woman need to figure out where they are going to live because they just had to close their small business, file bankruptcy and can’t pay their bills. It is all about perspective. Smart parents around the world tell their children to be grateful for what they have, because there is someone out there that has it a lot worse (and by the way-those “someone’s” usually have a better perspective than others).
It does not do any good to sympathize with employees when they are complaining about workload or removal of benefits and even pay cuts. In fact, the bad morale is created when leaders and workers start to sympathize with each other on the struggles or unfairness of the job. The intent of these leaders is to show compassion and empathy for their team members and therefore hopefully help them turn around their morale, but instead they end up confirming why the morale should be bad. To improve morale the leader must change the team member’s perspective. This is not a cold or insensitive approach, it is an empathetic approach that says the feelings the person is feeling are real, but may not be necessary, helpful or have a purpose. The leader’s job is to give the team member’s hope and understanding, not sympathy.
When a team complains about work load increase due to others being laid off or people leaving the company, the leader should discuss how the individual now has the opportunity to step up even more than before and challenge them to own the job…not in a cheesy, “you can do it” cheer, but in a real tone, that says this is what it will take from the team; and each person has to decide if they are committed and willing.
Difficult times do not cause bad morale the lack of gratefulness does. Leaders need to take a look at their team and their situation and know they are the only ones who can change it. Morale is a result of the actions or lack of actions of the leader and the team. By taking this positive attitude on, the individuals win, the company can win again, which will come right back to the individuals in the long run. Every decision is a choice. One can stay and complain and be miserable, one can leave and hope for something better, or one can truly change their perspective, be grateful and move forward with a purpose.
Stop searching for happiness. It is not a destination: rather it is a state of being
A leader once said that if your goal is to be happy then you will never be happy. People say it all the time, “My goal is to be happy.” What are they really saying? Are they not happy now or is their goal to stay happy? There is the old saying “money can’t buy you happiness” and everybody has heard the ending, “yes, but it can buy the things that make a person happy.” Deep down everybody truly wants to be happy however, people are not happy because they are successful-they are successful because they are happy.
A great leader must insist on all team members being happy, and if anybody is not happy they should find a new place to work or hang out. Keep in mind that being happy does not mean being content. Life and business is game of competition with oneself. As people and as business leaders, one must always strive to be better and improve. When people stop trying to improve or learn they become bored and content (and actually unhappy). Contentment is a major contributor to morale. Contentment is like quick sand; anybody can fall in it and it will continue to pull a person down until they are gone or until a leader challenges them and pulls them out.
If an organization is having a morale issue, look at the happiness and contentment of the team. Just remember contentment is like bad breath; sometimes we can’t smell our own bad breath and we need someone to tell us, so we can change it. Get in a happy state of being and challenge yourself and your team to never be content.
Nathan Jamail, author of “The Playbook Series,” is also a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. He is a former executive for Fortune 500 companies, and owns several small businesses. For more information, visit http://www.NathanJamail.com or contact 972-377-0030.