How can I uphold team morale amid change?

16 September 2011 -


“I am expecting some upheaval in my business soon. How can I assure my staff that it will have a positive outcome and that it should not affect their self-confidence or team spirit?”

Dr Karin Moser says:

In times of uncertainty, the psychological contract between you and your employees – what they believe they owe the organisation and vice versa – is broken. Employees will feel insecure, act more conservatively and be less engaged as a result. They tend to be highly compliant but not necessarily accepting of the demands you make.

As a manager, you will know the signs. You need to acknowledge your situation and the problems and limitations it poses. Understanding your staff and what motivates them is more important than ever – you need to focus on your communications strategy and how you word things. Transparency about the problems your organisation is facing, and communicating realistic scenarios and timelines is now key.

Do not underestimate the power of communication. You may feel time-pressured and afraid of failing yourself, but you must be visible, accessible and approachable. If you’re not sure how long it will take for decisions to be made, say so, and you will increase loyalty. It takes courage to acknowledge difficulties, but if you communicate what you know well, you will have a more motivated workforce.

Motivating staff is about taking little steps, rather than making big changes. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all motivation programme, but you can group people by their preferences – striving for status and promotion, improving expertise and employability, the need for social acceptance or verbal recognition or for job security – and work from there. A thank-you, or the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and challenges, can make all the difference. It’s also useful to think about things from a team or departmental level. Rewarding teams rather than individuals can strengthen organisational bonds.

Dr Karin Moser is a social and organisational psychologist at Roehampton University in London

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