Employee turnover rates, employee attitudes, body language, and facial expressions speak volumes about a company. The signs are easy to see – grumbling, fearfulness, under-breath comments, lack of humor or gallows humor, cynical signs on desks or screen savers, and sour, negative attitudes.
Poor morale comes from poor leaders. Employees are not to blame. They are simply responding to a lack of leadership. Poor morale is solved by a genuine interest in the welfare of employees, trust, constant feedback, good two-way communications, clear goals, and positive motivation.
Leaders must motivate their employees to do what needs to be done, not just to get by, but to excel. Leaders are vitally concerned about their employees’ morale. Poor morale can cripple the effectiveness of any group of people.
You must set the example and be positive and upbeat. Bad moods can destroy an organization, especially if it is yours. It is your responsibility to keep your employees up. Don’t tolerate sour, negative attitudes. Unless you put a stop to them, they will grow like a cancer and be just as destructive.
A vivid memory of mine is of working at a historic hotel where the controller had been “in residence” for over twenty years. Martha never smiled, and she seemingly despised hotel guests, vendors, and other employees. Her isolation, constant grumbling, and obvious contempt for all around her poisoned the day-to-day atmosphere of the operation.
Staff social functions were occasions for Martha to complain about others who had not done their part or had performed poorly. Staff meetings always included diatribes on how planned improvements were pointless because guests always complained and employees didn’t care. Despite her critical and central role in the operation, other employees avoided her like the plague since she was so unpleasant. Naturally this led to all sorts of problems, lack of cooperation, and miscommunication.
Finally, after much fruitless counseling and despite her longevity, we fired Martha. The new controller we hired placed great emphasis on being part of the team, meeting with other department heads to explore their concerns and issues, and making a positive contribution to planning and change.
Morale improved immediately. Line employees and managers seemed to have a new enthusiasm for the challenges we faced. Cooperation and consideration became the order of the day. As we gathered steam, improvements in the operation were readily apparent, and we all took pride in our efforts and accomplishments. Even our regular guests noticed the new attitude and complimented us on our many initiatives.
I expected things to improve without Martha’s ill humor, yet I was stunned by the difference her departure made. It seems her negativity impacted many on the staff. The collective emotional energy invested in dealing with her was put to better use and everyone was better for it.
While you can’t control the mood swings of others, you can expect and require your employees to treat their fellow employees with courtesy and respect. You can insist on a cheerful and positive attitude. Any employee who refuses to make this basic commitment to the group welfare should seek other employment or, if suffering from a medical condition or emotional problem, seek professional help.
In dealing with many issues of motivation and morale, a little sincere human concern goes a long way. The people who work for you are like you, basically good-at-heart, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Be gentle and nurturing and give them the benefit of the doubt. Show understanding in helping and teaching them. Yet be uncompromising and fanatical in your dedication to right attitude and quality of service.
Make employees part of the team, remembering that you are their coach. Share ideas with them, brainstorm with them, and listen to their ideas. A person with a stake in an organization has a greater sense of commitment.
A little praise and recognition goes a long way in building morale and esprit. If employees bring you good ideas, make sure they get recognition for their contribution. Never, ever take credit for an employee’s idea. Your superiors will be far more impressed by your self-confidence and generosity of spirit in giving credit where it is truly due. Conversely, nothing will destroy your standing with employees faster than claiming credit for their accomplishments and ideas.
Know and address your employees by name. Meet with your employees frequently, both formally and informally. Talk to them every day. Ask for problems; hound them for problems. If they honestly believe you will try to solve the problems they face, they will open up.
Excerpted from Leadership on the Line: A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2002
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This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.
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