Office Morale Makeover
By Chelse Benham
“The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you
hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The ebb and flow of daily life creates stressful situations. The office is often the
place where personality differences among office members, and the problems
that arise because of them, occur. Opposing dynamics can develop between co-
workers, employees versus employers or between administrators. Factions of “us
versus them” scenarios are debilitating to office morale and productivity.
Sometimes the difference lies in the desires of the people involved, desires that
are at the core very similar.
“Everybody has individual attitudes. Morale is bringing these attitudes together
through communication,” said Susie Chapa, coordinator of Cooperative
Education at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement
Services Office. “Having respect for each other and then communicating openly
builds a strong office team spirit that is at the core of office morale.”
Negative office politics can hamper knowledge sharing, prevent appreciation for
work well done from being rewarded and lead to the loss of valuable talent. Linda
Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park, a international business research
firm located in England, described negative office politics as manipulation, back-
stabbing, bad mouthing and the “dark side” of human behavior that has negative
effects that may exclude key people from the decision making process, create a
loss of faith in top management, increase internal competition and conflict within
the workplace. In light of the destructive consequences, is it any wonder that
maintaining healthy office morale should be a company’s top priority?
Michael G. Schwern, program developer and assurance manager for Onyx Neon,
an on-line consulting company, listed these simple ways of destroying morale:
• give impossible deadlines and continually miss them
• tell someone “just get it done”
• imply a lack of trust
• play management games; play favorites among people, withhold
information, sidestep responsibility, take credit for other people’s work
• shuffle priorities
• apply pressure and a lot of it
• don’t reward a job well done, instead criticize it
Don Price, a Canadian management consultant and author of “The Practice
Manager” newsletter, offers the following steps to improve office morale:
• Clearly communicate the office’s mission and philosophy as the first step
to building a team spirit.
• Do not allow divisions between staff positions to create an “us versus
• Review expectations periodically to ensure that they are in line with staff
experience and workload.
• Listen to staff and provide them with opportunities to voice their concerns
and ideas and help them identify solutions. Openly respond to and value
the suggestions offered.
• Allow staff to be involved in some decision-making with regard to their own
• Communicate requirements of the job clearly to the staff so that they know
exactly what is expected of them.
• Ensure that the staff has a manageable workload with access to resources
that ensures they can do their work effectively.
• Be consistent about staff responsibilities and procedures.
• Recognize signs of stress and burnout.
• Evaluate staff performances annually.
• Provide training and professional enhancement courses to employees.
Allow for professional growth.
• Acknowledge jobs well done by appreciating individual accomplishments.
• Share positive feedback with staff from clients and people outside the
• Provide fair compensation commensurate with skills and responsibilities.
• Be supportive of staff and include them verbally as part of a team.
Maura Gallagher, editor of Staples.com, offers straightforward tips to keep spirits
high among employees.
Get your employees involved. Ask employees for input on how to improve
Be honest. No matter what the situation, let employees know factual information.
Laugh a little. Margaret Lobehnstine, human resources business expert at
Staples.com, recommends bringing “humor to the workplace by putting jokes on
a bulletin board.”
Accentuate the positive. Remind your staff how many changes it has
Celebrate successes. When projects wrap up celebrate the hard work of the
Encourage daily walks. Let your staff know it’s okay to take short breaks and go
out for walks.
Develop clear roles and responsibilities. Clearly state that each person brings
to the table something different and it’s that difference that makes the team
Establish office policies. Discuss issues that cause the most conflict and
resolve them with policies that everyone has to follow.
Formalize a communication system. Provide opportunities for employees to
communicate problems in a safe environment. This may be done at a weekly
meeting or a roundtable discussion.
Hold a “state of the union address” at least once a year. Discuss how
everyone in the office fits in the bigger picture. Allow for interaction from
members to ask questions or to comment.
Sign your office up for a team building workshop. Look for workshops that
teach communication techniques, activities that build trust and effective problem
There are seven ways you can rally the troops suggests Joanna Krotz, manager
of Muse2Muse Productions, a content strategy and editorial services firm, and
founding editor of MoneyMinded.com - a women's money management site.
1. Choose your attitude. So says Harry Paul, co-author of business
bestseller "Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve
Results." One of the four tenets of the popular “Fish!” management
philosophy is choosing to have a positive attitude, which means
communicating to staff that each one can make a difference.
2. Be honest, visible and accessible. People feel out of control without
3. Maintain small rewards. Provide professional growth seminars and skills
enhancement workshops for employees that show commitment and strong
4. Organize a charitable event. Helping others and rallying employees
around a common cause tends to make everyone feel good.
5. Retool and stay challenged. When the company is not busy with clients,
assign internal projects, such as creating new marketing materials or
reorganizing workflow procedures.
6. Communicate success. Use every channel you have — brownbag
lunches, e-mail, the company Internet, office meetings — to get out the
word on wins, even small ones.
7. Ask each employee what they see for their future. Are they finding
success and happiness in their job? Find out what the employee is
thinking and what they desire out of their career.
Morale is the invisible veil that cloaks all within it, permeating the relationships of
each individual bad thus affecting the whole. No one negative attitude is isolated
from the rest. Bottom line: Communicate openly from the heart and with respect
for fellow co-workers.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become
actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they
become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” – Frank