Are you doing what
it takes to keep employee morale high
in these difficult times? Here are
four questions to help you assess
whether or not you are.
1. Are you giving employees
as much control over their job and
work experience as possible?
- Decades of stress research with
humans and lab animals shows that
the #1 factor determining an individual’s
stress level when faced with adversity
is the degree of control they believe
they have. Thus, the more control
your employees experience on the job
and in their overall work experience,
the greater their ability to handle
the demands, pressures, and uncertainties
Conversely, if employees frequently
experience little control in their
jobs and in their work experience,
they are at risk of developing what
psychologists call Learned Helplessness,
which leads to a passive, victim mentality.
What to Do:
- Make sure you supply your employees
with the tools, training, and resources
to do their jobs well… so
they feel a sense of control and
mastery in their work.
- Give them as much decision-making
authority as possible over their
- Remove obstacles that make it
hard for them to feel “the
thrill of victory”, but instead,
set them up for “the agony
- Don’t do things TO your
employees. Involve them in decisions
that affect their day to day work
- Involve employees in generating
solutions and new ideas. Involvement
and action create the experience
of positive control, and are tremendous
antidotes to fear.
2. Are You Keeping Employees
In the Loop? – One
of the simplest, most effective ways
of reducing employee anxiety during
challenging times is to let them know
what’s going on. Although this
is common sense, research by Watson
Wyatt Worldwide shows that only 1/3
of workers interviewed gave their
employer high marks in this area.
In recent interviews with two HR
professionals from healthcare organizations
known for being excellent places to
work, both were asked what they were
doing to keep morale high in these
difficult times. Both had this as
their first response: “Transparency.”
Kevin Healey of St. Mary’s Healthcare
System and Leigh Baade of New England
Rehab Hospital both cited their CEO’s
transparency and authenticity when
sharing financial realities, challenges,
and opportunities as playing a major
role in keeping fear at bay and employee
What to Do:
- Find out from your employees if
they feel “kept in the loop”
or “kept in the dark.”
- Ask them what information they
want to be kept apprised of and
act on this.
- Be sure to explain the “Why”
behind decisions. When people understand
“Why” they can deal
with almost any “What.”
- Share from the heart. In a recent
interview with employees from another
organization lead by an authentic,
transparent leader— Jøtul
North America, winner of a Best
Place to Work award—without
exception the first thing employees
shared was the impact their leader’s
authenticity and genuine concern
had on them in keeping morale and
trust high, despite the difficult
news he had to bring them.
3. Are You Calling Forth
Their “Best Self” and
– You want your employees to
bring you their best and to know they
are of value to you. You want them
to have what Southwest Airlines calls
a “Warrior Spirit”—a
cheerfully fierce approach to challenges.
This is one of the secrets of resilient
organizations that enjoy a “Can
Do” workforce. They call forth
the best in their people by keeping
employees wired into the organization’s
vision and mission and letting each
employee know how they help make it
happen. To do that, world class organizations
like Baptist Healthcare System, Ritz
Carlton, and Southwest Airlines make
it a regular practice to share stories
of employees making a difference and
doing great things.
What to Do:
- Make it a practice to share stories
of the impact your healthcare organization
is having due to the contributions
your employees make.
- Celebrate examples of employees
“going above and beyond.”
- Make these both a regular component
of your employee newsletter.
4. Are You Making Gratitude
a Regular Part of Your Culture?
– Few actions have a more powerful
effect on employee morale and their
willingness to work hard, than the
expression of gratitude.
Gratitude is a fascinating and powerful
phenomenon. Experiments involving
people who practiced reflecting on
all they had to be grateful for, showed
that they developed greater levels
of happiness, better health, and an
increased capacity to notice the positive
in their lives.
This last point is especially significant.
Wisdom traditions have taught for
millennia “What we give attention
to, tends to grow and multiply.”
Thus when we consciously practice
gratitude, our capacity for gratitude—and
the positive emotional effects it
The emotional consequences of growing
gratitude generate significant benefits.
Think of your own experiences with
gratitude. When filled with gratitude,
aren’t you more likely to “not
sweat the small stuff,” give
people the benefit of the doubt, and
want to help others? Multiply this
effect organization-wide and consider
the impact on employee morale, teamwork,
productivity, and patient care.
What to Do:
- Model this. Express gratitude,
not only to your team members, but
to your peers, and your manager.
Bosses often get even less gratitude
than front line workers.
- Start each meeting with the opportunity
for members to express their gratitude,
such as the great service they received
from another department, or an “above
and beyond the call of duty”
performance from a team member.
- If you don’t already have
a formal process where employees
can express thanks to each other,
work with your employees to come
up with one. At Northeast Delta
Dental, you can send a Team Gram
to another employee who has been
exceptionally helpful. (Note: such
tangible expressions of appreciation
only work if they are a sincere,
congruent reflection of the culture,
and are not a replacement for face
to face, verbal expressions of gratitude).
- Make sure your presence at work
is something that others can truly
be grateful for. In other words,
continually ask yourself: “Am
I bringing my Best Self to Work”
and “Am I treating others
the way I would like to be treated?”.
For a more extensive treatment of
this subject, you can obtain the whitepaper
“How to Keep Morale High In
Today’s Demanding Healthcare
Environment” by emailing David
Lee at David@HumanNatureAtWork.com.