Morale, that’s an employee issue!

A couple of weeks ago I heard a manager say that employee morale was not a management issue, I hope I heard wrong, but I don’t think I did. 

To be fair though I don’t think the manager concerned really meant what he said and was in fact referring to an employees response to his remuneration was a personal issue.  Morale in contrast is much more than a response to remuneration and is very much a management issue.

I am not a great manager, however in my years I have learnt a couple of lessons about morale and the most significant being that individuals often tend to keep their morale troubles to themselves, sometimes grumbling to friends but not always.  I always found this really worrying because I know for sure that a persons peer group and manager can do a lot improve morale, if they know about it.

Over a couple of years my team leaders and I came up with a pretty good approach, which is worth sharing:

  1. Each week everyone in the team (including the team leads and I) posted a highlight report to a shared folder
  2. At the end of the highlight report they scored their overall satisfaction in the following areas:  frustration, too much work, too little work, skills, training, overall happiness
  3. Our wonderful admin consolidated all the cores into a spreadsheet so that we could spot trends across the 30+ people in the team

I noticed some great benefits:

  1. Everyone seemed much happier being honest in providing these happiness scores than they were with explicitly going to their team leaders directly, because they were concerned they might be seen as moaning
  2. The team leads and I found that everyone understood us a bit better and the “what does he do all day” question never seemed to arise!
  3. We explicitly defined the scores so that a person could indicate that their level of satisfaction required some intervention and how urgent that was
  4. All the team leaders and myself scanned every highlight report each week and were very proactive and imaginative in addressing the issues, we were also much more relaxed about management because we had a great way of tracking team “health” overall
  5. Very often we didn’t need to do much because when a person indicated an issue their team mates almost always rallied round and helped resolve it before team leaders got a chance
  6. Team leaders shared the responsibility for everyone in the team, we often found that the best person to help address a persons motivation issue was not their direct team leader

I’m sure this approach isn’t in any management handbooks but it worked for us so I thought I would pass it on,  one point worth noting is that the issue was almost never money!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I admire your positive, constructive way of dealing with the pain of arthritis.
    Did you ever read about Norman Cousins and the way he approached it? There’s some info here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Cousins, including this:
    Cousins developed a recovery program incorporating megadoses of Vitamin C, along with a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he reported. “When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the link, it’s interesting that I find the pain much easier to deal with than the fatigue and concentration, I guess in my line of work concentration is all.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Managers play a key role in employee morale, especially bad ones! Jerome Alexander spells this out clearly in his book “160 Degrees of Deviation” Alexander writes from both an employee as well as a middle manager’s perspective. Don’t forget that managers are employees too! This is an introspective view of the corporate structure that all too often loses track of incompetent and bad middle managers. A quick read with some real life stories. Lot’s cynical humor here too!

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