Re-charging Employee Morale: Team Tips

This is the second in a series of three posts in which I feature coaching tips from business consultant-coach-authors Michelle Gall, Dawn Lennon, and Phil Gerbyshak on how to cope in this chaotic climate.

Today I feature Michelle Gall, executive coach and the author of Keep Your WITS About You: Work Smart, Be Happy, Feel Great. Here’s what Michelle had to say in response to the question:

In organizations where employees are experiencing low morale, low motivation, general malaise, etc. – due to workplace pressures and current economic conditions – what do you suggest to help people re-energize themselves and their co-workers? 

“You’ve heard it all. The market value of everyone’s retirement savings has plummeted while insomnia has soared to new heights. The economic meltdown has ridden roughshod over college funds, nest eggs, and employee morale. Just a year ago, employees had their sights set on upward mobility and corner offices, but now they’re hanging on by their fingernails just to keep what they have. Everyone knows someone who has been fired or laid-off in the last year; if you don’t, you either travel in rarefied circles or you’re out-of-touch with the American workplace.

“It’s easy to have a good attitude when things are going well, but it takes someone special to stay positive during trying times. Not just anyone can turn lemons into lemonade. That’s why bad times call for good people. You don’t need a lot of money to have fun –– just the right people. Here are a few of my favorite tips for building camaraderie and improving workplace morale:

  • Cookie Exchange: Everyone brings in a plate of one dozen homemade cookies and a paper bag. Employees then fill their paper bags with one dozen different cookies (each cookie from a different plate). In this way, employees arrive with their own cookies, but they leave with an assortment of different cookies baked by their colleagues. Everyone gives and receives. The only rule: everyone leaves with a full bag so that there are no leftover cookies.
  • Thank You Notes: This team-building exercise is a more meaningful version of “Secret Santa,” where everyone ends up with positive feedback. Each employee writes his/her name on a piece of paper and drops it into a large manila envelope. Each person then reaches into the manila envelope and picks out a colleague’s name at random. The employee then has 24 hours to write a thank you note to the colleague for behaviors and actions that s/he appreciates in that person. It’s extra convenient and fun if a variety of blank note cards are available to employees for this exercise. The notes can be unsigned and typed if desired to preserve anonymity. The next day, all the thank you cards are placed in a large manila envelope, retrieved randomly, and distributed to each employee by name for their reading pleasure.
  • Catch ‘Em Doing Something Good: The two exercises described above reward everyone, but perhaps you prefer to reward only those employees who demonstrate a particular desired behavior. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center faced this challenge when it wanted to increase hand-washing among its doctors. Their solution? The hospital empowered a posse of nurses to award a $10 Starbucks card to every physician they caught in the act of hand-washing. It may be hard to believe, but this low-cost incentive increased hand-hygiene compliance from 65% to 80%. If a $10 Starbucks card can reinforce good behavior in high-paid doctors, just think how effective it could be with lesser-paid employees at your organization for whom a stop at Starbucks is now a rare treat. [Here’s more info about the Cedars-Sinai case.]

“There are lots of variations on the above team-building exercises, and you can adjust or tailor them easily to fit your particular industry or workplace norms. These morale-boosters deliver a big bang for the buck. They cost little or nothing, and they’re easy to implement. What’s more, they also offer employees the opportunity to be creative and have fun, which helps reduce stress and enhance morale. Bad times call for good people. Be one of the good guys.”

Thanks, Michelle!

I’ll have more tips in next week’s post …


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