How to Maintain Team Morale During Times of Uncertainty

Published on October 20, 2020

Any kind of major change can feel like an upheaval, but when that change has an air of uncertainty around it, the impact can be even greater. When will these circumstances change – or will they change at all? Is this temporary or permanent? Not knowing how something is going to pan out can be even more devastating than knowing it’s going to get worse – when you’re unclear on what’s next, your mind goes to all possibilities.

As the CEO of your company, you can’t provide answers that you don’t have, but you can help soften the blow by providing support and improving morale. Here’s how.

Acknowledge That This Is a Time of Uncertainty

No matter where the uncertainty is coming from – rumored layoffs, slow growth, moving locations – acknowledge that things are uncertain, and it’s affecting how everyone feels and works. By bringing up the matter at hand, your team can let their breath out and feel comfortable talking about how they’re being impacted. Then, once the issue has been acknowledged and people have had some time to air their concerns, move on to another topic – you want to be supportive of your team but not supportive of brooding.

Adjust Your Business Operations in Response to the Change

The first thing to do when there’s been a major change is update your operations in accordance with the new situation. You may not be able to tell employees what’s going to happen in the long run, but you can tell them what to do next, and that can give everyone the feeling of having a security net.

Also, as you work out some kinks, communicate with your employees about problems you’re working on and possible solutions management is trying to enact. Employees want to know what’s going to happen, even if the details aren’t finalized yet. Furthermore, explain what’s happening in other departments, too. This will make the entire company feel connected, like everyone’s in this together.

Pay Attention to Signs of Drooping Morale

It’s important to determine if employees are losing their morale, and you can’t necessarily ask them outright. It’s unlikely you’ll get an honest answer. Aside from paying attention to body language, watch out for these signs:

  • No longer giving feedback, sharing ideas, or providing project updates
  • Infrequent communication overall
  • Not cooperating with co-workers; unwilling to take on new projects or tasks
  • Criticism of management or co-workers and pessimism about the company
  • Decline in quality of work, such as missing deadlines or making a lot of errors, and no requests for help or direction.

Here’s something else to watch out for: Employees who are always accessible. If you notice that an employee works from morning to night or is available online all the time, that’s not necessarily a sign of dedication – it could be a sign of a too heavy workload and impending burnout. Generally, employees who are satisfied with their jobs are also comfortable leaving, whether for an evening or weekend.

Ask Team Members What They Need

If you notice any of the signs listed above, it’s time to speak with your team members one at a time. To start, simply ask them what they need, explaining that you’re open to listening to their concerns and suggestions if it will help them have an easier time accomplishing their work. They may say that they need a few days off to recharge or that they need a more flexible schedule because their children have full-time remote school at the moment. They may request additional training, help from another team member, or input about which work needs to be a priority. 

Whatever it is, do your best to meet their needs, so long as the business can continue to run. Remember, the goal here is to be more productive, not less productive. While asking to take a few vacation days or adjust working hours to account for family demands is reasonable, asking to cut hours in half or take a month off is not.

Show Everyone the Bigger Picture

In a time of change, when people aren’t at their best, it helps to take a step back and look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on the small details. Instead of saying “I’d like to see these tasks handled every day,” talk about how you want team members to feel at the end of a workday or workweek. Instead of calling out one employee who may have snapped at another employee during a time of stress, ask everyone how they want to act during this difficult time and how they want to treat others. There is, of course, a time to deal with the finer points, but reminding your team of the larger, overarching principles that guide them may take care of some of those minor details on their own.

Care for Yourself, Too

If you’re not managing your own anxiety and stress, it’ll be impossible to help your team members through their discomfort about this time of uncertainty. Be a model of morale and resiliency by understanding and even discussing your emotions, taking time for self-care, and showing how you’re continuing to contribute positively to the company despite the turbulence.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to prioritize team morale, especially during times of major change. Morale may be harder to measure than, say, sales, but it’s no less important . When employees feel like they’re not supported, they won’t be nearly as productive, and your business can suffer. Morale is always important, not just in the face of change, but when employees are feeling their energy and motivation flag, giving them a boost is even more integral.

Brian Meert is a Grit Daily contributor and the CEO of AdvertiseMint, a Hollywood based digital advertising agency that specializes in helping successful companies advertise on Facebook. Advertisemint has managed millions of dollars in digital ad spends in entertainment, fashion, finance, and software industries. Brian is also the author of the best selling, The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising, and the innovative The Complete Guide to Digital Advertising Policies infographic. He is a 15-year digital advertising executive and a member of the Forbes Agency Council. Prior to founding Advertisemint, Brian built and sold, an online ticketing system that revolutionized the entertainment industry and is now utilized by Warner Bros. and Disney.

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