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Nip morale problems in the bud

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Got a morale problem? You may get lucky if it dissipates quickly and a brighter outlook prevails. But don’t count on it.

Look for clues of disgruntled workers. Then take an activist role to sweep away demotivators.

Consider how Bill Johnson manages thousands of employees as the chairman, president and chief executive of Progress Energy. He spends much of his time visiting the company’s field operations that help generate its $9 billion in annual revenues.

“You can feel when something’s not right among employees,” Johnson says. “You see it in their body language and how they talk to supervisors.”

In a high-morale workplace, for example, he sees people leveling with each other in an honest, straightforward tone. But if he detects a hesitation to speak up among employees or a reluctance to share information or ideas, he digs deeper.

When employees criticize, listen with an open mind. Don’t accuse them of complaining. What you deem a negative comment can actually help you boost productivity.

“When I hear people say, ‘This isn’t as good as it used to be,’ that gets my attention,” Johnson says. “I want to know where they think our performance needs improvement.”

As soon as you notice flagging morale, ask individuals to assess their motivation level. Let them speak freely without interrupting. Nod to indicate you want to hear more. Give them a chance to open up so you can learn what’s amiss.


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