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Motivating in a Void

Inject energy into a listless team

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

When your company earns fat profits and spreads the wealth among employees, it’s easy to motivate them. But during a retrenchment, when layoffs or setbacks make it hard for employees to care about work, everything gets tougher. Without a budget for bonuses or room for promotions, you’re left without some standard motivational tools.

Top managers rally the troops even when they’re down. Here’s how:

Teach new skills. Boost morale by helping staffers expand their abilities. Teach computerphobes a software program. Coach quiet technicians to speak at conferences. Give employees a chance to get cross-trained in different functions. By letting them grow, you’ll shake them from their torpor.

Recognize heroes. Find those employees who stay on track without complaining. Reward them with highvisibility duties. You want their resilience and positive attitude to rub off.

Listen wisely. Serve as a sponge that soaks up your employees’ frustration. Let them vent privately to you. Encourage them to “talk it out” without getting defensive. That way, you can provide informal therapy. You’ll earn their trust and they may show more enthusiasm for their jobs.

Introduce rituals. By saluting a star employee every month or bestowing symbolic awards on your winners, you create good cheer. One manager tells us she spends about $10 a month on a gift for her “best trooper,” such as a T-shirt or a clock radio. “It’s out of my own pocket, but I get incredible bang for the buck,” she says. “People just love little practical gifts.”

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