A crisis can hit any organisation at any time, the consequences of which can have a negative effect on employee morale and impact productivity. Other effects upon morale are the recession, increased workloads and the consequent job uncertainly that has become a part of the corporate landscape.

Although most people will try to work diligently even if morale is low, enthusiasm will dwindle, there may be increased conflict, reduced energy, innovation and a drop in output.

So the most important step for the CEO and his/her team is to ensure that the management team recognise the warning signs such as: obvious dissatisfaction, increased absenteeism, insubordination, missed deadlines, apathy and increased employee turnover.

Role model

Even if the business has managed to ride out the current economic crisis, the chances are that your team are still anxious about what the future might hold.

The morale of any individual is directly affected by their manager, so it is essential that you work on your own mindset and attitude first. At such a time, you will need to formulate and implement a strategy to rebuild their confidence and energy.

Another situation is one of downsizing. Organisations don’t always recognise the impact redundancy has on those remaining or anticipate the long-term negative effects. But disaffected employees may be the first to leave when the economy starts to improve and yet they may be the very people, and talent, that the organisation needs to take them forward.

So what specific steps can the manager take?

1. The answer is to develop a positive relationship with your team: This is just the time when the Manager needs to ‘walk the talk’ and touch base with staff on a regular basis. This will have the benefit of re-establishing trust and building rapport.

2. Open the lines of communication: To counteract sliding morale, it is vital to have efficient lines of communications. Keep your team updated on developments and let them know that you are available on an informal basis if they have any questions or concerns. Remove some of the physical barriers to an interactive conversation by keeping your door open and by visiting employees at their workplace. Remember always, that open communication is about listening as well as talking and letting your team know that you welcome their ideas and feedback for improvement.

3. Acknowledge, praise and reward: Lack of recognition is cited as one of the major causes of low morale and a simple ‘thank you’ can make all the difference to how someone feels about themselves and their job. One of the biggest morale boosters is to show appreciation. Remember that time when your boss said you did a great job? How good did it make you feel? Well, now is the time to do this for others.

4. Assess training opportunities: By listening attentively to your team, you may find out that there is a training requirement to help people to better develop their skills. You should be careful not to assume that one person can take on other’s work when maybe that they have not been trained to do so.

5. Monitor workloads: During tough times, some employees may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done and it can turn into vicious circle. The harder they work, the more stressed they become and in turn, the less they accomplish which can increase anxiety and decrease morale. This cycle needs to be broken and cost-effective ways to reduce the workload or deadlines from your team may need to be arranged. Re-delegating responsibilities and reorganising job structures may help.

6. Build a community: After any crisis, the working landscape will have changed and it will be the time to get people working together to rebuild a working community. The more people enjoy coming to work and working alongside each other, the higher their morale. Build team unity by creating an environment of collaboration and co-operation, rather than competition.

You may have no control over the general economic situation and its impact upon commercial activity in general, but you do have control over how you manage its impact within your departmental responsibility in your organisation.

These are small techniques that will make a big difference.

Worth a try, I would say.

— The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact the consultancy for proven stress strategies: www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk