Anne M. Obarski

Article Summary:

Five steps to improve employee morale in your workplace.

Five Steps to Improve Employee Morale

How many times have you ever wanted to say to an employee who was complaining about their job to "STOP WHINING"! Start a conversation with someone and say, "Don't you hate it when you are in a place of business and the employee starts to say how they..." Finish the sentence.

  • Can't wait to go home
  • Can't believe they hadn't gotten a break
  • Haven't had a day-off in two weeks.
  • Have a headache, stomach ache, this hurts, that hurts.
  • Wish it was Friday.
  • Can't believe the customer they just had.
If you are like most customers you can relate. On the other hand, I recently got a rash of very irate "readers" who wanted me to know their true feelings about how the employee feels sometimes. They were angry. Their comments were, "We hate working with customers who:
  • Treat us like we are their servants.
  • Yell at us when we don't know the answer to their question
  • Tell us we should be glad we have a job.
  • Call us nasty names.
  • Don't realize how much we are responsible for and how little pay we get.
  • Ask us when we are going to get a better job?
Both sides sound bitter, wouldn't you say? Recently I read the following statement in an article on entrepreneur.com; "When morale decreases for whatever reason, productivity usually tumbles right along with it. Costly employee absenteeism, accidents, turnover and dissatisfaction increase. Without your concern and action to attack the causes of decreasing morale, the mood, motivation and activity levels of your employees may be at risk."

The key to improving employee morale is to kick up your communication skills a couple of notches from the top management to the front line employees and I believe that all starts with the word, expectation.

1. Job expectation:
Do your employees really understand what is expected of them? Does your training material cover all of the physical expectations of the job as far as hours, work schedule, work environment and so on? Is there "live" role playing incorporated in the training program that shows, by example, the typical and not so typical situations that they may have to handle on a daily basis? Be fair and upfront with your employees as to what the job requires them to do.

2. Accountability expectation:
Do you have an employee handbook? Do your employees know exactly what is expected of them and how they will be held accountable? Do you have ways of testing your employees after they have gone through training? How do you handle giving the feedback that is necessary for them to change their behavior? Do you manage by reward or by punishment? Which do you think is a better morale booster?

3. Communication expectation:
I recently received feedback from a client who said, "Well, we didn't give our people the correct information on how to give feedback on their performance, so the feedback was used as a punishment and not as a learning tool. My question was whose fault was that? My guess was management. Communication is critical on every single level of business.

Employees need to know that they can go to any level of management and that someone will listen. If not, their concerns will be voiced to their peers and anyone else that will listen, which could just be the customer.

The article in entrepreneur.com goes on to say, "Once thoughts are expressed and employees contribute, they'll feel heard and valued that the boss is listening. When action is taken on their ideas, even if told that their ideas are good but too costly or not possible to implement, most employees will still have experienced the boss listening to them. This can impact an individual in positive ways. And if the idea is actually acted upon, the employee will feel that he or she has achieved a goal. And achievement is a major source of motivation, and motivation leads to productivity. The boss listens and learns. The employee expresses herself. Both gain something. Morale improves as a result, and everyone wins. What's not to like?"

4. Reward Expectation:
The make believe radio station that constantly plays in most peoples heads is&WII-FM. What is in it for me? Most people are thinking as they interview for a job:

  • I wonder what my uniform will look like?
  • I wonder if I will have a kind boss?
  • I wonder if I will get a discount?
  • I wonder if I can ask for special days off?
  • I wonder when I can expect my first raise?
  • I wonder how soon I will get benefits?
Do those expectations sound normal? Sure they do, however, the "rewards" should be simpler;
  • Will my boss know my name and recognize me every day?
  • Will my boss ask me about my family or my studies at school?
  • Will management have compassion if I have sickness or a death in my family?
  • Will my peers be treated as equals?
  • Will we celebrate special occasions and recognize good performance?
You see it is about the expectation of how valuable an employees feelings are that may never be verbalized but are none the less, very real and very important.

Rewards in this case, are not always about money. These rewards are based on "soft skills" or better yet, "people skills" which many managers have a hard time grasping.

5. Stress Expectation:
I recently read this comment, "A recent poll says that 90% of all Americans live in a state of chronic stress". YIKES!!!! No wonder customers get treated so poorly. Make sure people understand the role they play in controlling their own stress. We don't have control over circumstances; we do have control of how we perceive them. Take a deep breath, count to ten, walk away (physically or mentally) when you have to and call a "Time-out." Learn good stress management skills and teach them. Reinforce them. "Bob, I noticed how well you reacted with that angry customer yesterday, I was glad to see you take a deep breath and not react defensively - good job - you saved a valuable customer, and your own health as well. I'm proud to have you on the team."

I believe that people can handle just about anything as long as they are informed as to what they are to expect. No one really likes surprises, especially at work.

But somewhere in the "communication path" those expectations aren't always addressed. Better yet, people can handle the ups and downs in the business world if they know they aren't alone and that everyone else is right along side them. Do you remember your first job? Do you remember how you set the alarm to get up early? Do you remember putting out the right clothes to wear and making sure you had the directions to get there on time? Do you remember the butterflies in your stomach on the first day? Do you remember how happy you were because you "got the job"?

Strive to deliver on those five expectations and make every day like the "first day on the job" for you and your employees.

Anne M. Obarski is "The Eye on Performance!" As a professional speaker and trainer, Anne helps companies focus on the profit building service strategies that will keep their customers coming back. Anne presents nationwide keynotes, break-out sessions and customized training in the area of customer service. She has written "Surprising Secrets of Mystery Shoppers" and "Real World Customer Service Strategies That Work". For more information visit her website at www.merchandise concepts.com.

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