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How can I boost morale in a changing business environment?

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Question: “Since September 2007, we have had several layoffs and departmental restructurings. My department started with six of us. Now we are down to three and a half. I know my group is feeling a little shaky about all the changes that have been made. I need a morale booster that is inexpensive and lets the team know that I appreciate their hard work. Any ideas?”—Joyce, Idaho


Coffee and Donuts seems to work well. This usually runs around $20 maximum.

Give them a personal note that tells them what you appreciate about them - their work ethic, their attention to detail, jumping in on a project to help get it finished, etc. It takes a few minutes, but really means a lot. I try to give one to someone in my department every week.

You could also bake some brownies or a cake yourself! It shows you're thinking of them enough that you'll spend some personal time for them.

Often times the easiest thing to do is have lunch brought in and let your employees know that you appreciate their hard work and would like to hear from them on what they think is going right and what could be improved upon. Just asking sometimes helps morale. Your employees will then know that you care and are interested in what they have to say. Let them know that it's not a pity party or bitch session but that you would like to know what they think could help the department run more efficiently. We all to often get stuck in how we have always done something and now that you have fewer people, there may be a better way of getting the work done, which in turn will boost morale.

Communication is the key in this situation. Your people are feeling insecure about their place in the organization and most likely real concern for the organization's ability to survive these difficult times. Gather your team at least once a week for an informal time to talk about their concerns and to share as much information about the financial health of the organization as possible. Oh, and don't forget the snacks for the meeting. People relax and share more when there is food involved. Its difficult personally, but as their leader, they are looking to you for reassurance.

In my last position we faced the challenge of laying off over 80% of our workforce and by focusing on people's concerns and communicating and then communicating some more, we were able to make it though this period with morale relatively intact.

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