From time to time, in any institution, staff morale can wane. All kinds of stressors can cause it: budget cuts, staffing changes, planning huge events, and even the weather. (Last winter was brutal!) When it happens – and it will – here are some ways to raise staff morale.
It’s More than Just a Job
Make sure all staff members know that their work contributes to a greater purpose. Every single person on staff plays a part in the overall success of the organization. Certain projects can feel tedious, and other duties are just part of the daily grind, but reminding everyone that everything they do benefits our purpose can make everyone feel more invested in the work itself.
Celebrate success! I just said that even the most mundane projects contribute to the greater good, so celebrate the success of the project. Celebrate milestones toward a goal. Take a minute to congratulate yourselves. It doesn’t have to be a full-on party, just a simple acknowledgement and some “go team applause” at a staff meeting. (Though from time to time, a treat is nice too. Bring donuts, provide lunch, or have a lunchtime Wii bowling tournament.)
Give the Gift of Time
This can be more difficult in smaller institutions, but you could award the staff with time. Give them an hour away from customers (and/or co-workers, if they choose!) to explore something new. They could read a book about a subject they want to pursue for a program. They could take a webinar or drop in on a lecture on campus. They could attend a program the library is offering. They could visit the local historical museum and wander around for an hour. If your organization can manage it, they could even volunteer their time in the community for that hour. Help plant flowers in the beautiful downtown! Help the animal shelter walk dogs! Read to the residents at a nursing home! It’s just an hour, so it won’t hurt productivity, but it lets them shake off all work stress for an hour, recharge, and get inspired.
We’re All in This Together
If you, the leader, build relationships with your co-workers that makes them trust you, they will understand that you’re under the same pressure they are. Possibly even more pressure. I’ve written here before about leading by example. In this model of leadership, it is clear to everyone that you are all working toward the same goal, and that you’re all experiencing the same stress. You can boost morale just by being in the same situation they are and working together to make the most of it. I’d hate for my co-workers to think I wouldn’t understand their situation because I’ve never been in it. I have been there, and I am there with them right now.
I think the worst thing a leader could do is to not recognize a change in staff morale. You have to be in tune with attitudes and energy levels. When people stop volunteering to help, when they are less enthusiastic about their duties, when they get sick or call in more often, or even get patron complaints, you may have a problem. Pay attention to changes in staff behavior and do something to try to fix it.