Boosting Team Morale When Times are Tough

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Let’s face it: The times are tough. The election in the USA has prompted the most divisive and polarizing responses from people around the world. On top of that, there continue to belayoffs and increasing pressures in the workplace (see my article on Collaboration When the Economy is Failing Us). Patio season is over. Need I say more?

November seems to be one of the toughest times of year to stay focused and motivated – people are just ready for a break.

In these times, it is so important to put effort towards your team morale and be able to collectively finish the year strong and happy. We’ve put our heads together and thought of a few quick ways to enhance your team morale:

Create an IT File

Encourage your team members to create an “I’m Terrific” (IT) File. IT Files are made up of momentos and accomplishments that remind us of who we are, the values we demonstrate in working with others and what we’ve accomplished! We each have our different spin on the file – Helen coined the IT file, Lynne calls it a “Thank You” file, and I call it my “I’m awesome” file.  Name it as you like.

What does an IT File do for you? You forget or store experiences that you’ve had in massive webs of data that often remain unconnected until you reflect on them, pulling them out of storage. Creating your IT File helps pull the data together, so that it is easier to access in the future. When your brain goes through this type of reflection, it is called ‘generation,’ connecting webs of data together and creating connected memory of your experiences. That said, IT Files give you:

  1. A calm, collected sense of knowing that you are indeed amazing.
  2. Connections from random experiences into a cohesive structure to recall in the future. Ongoing records of events, values and accomplishments are waiting for you in your IT File. Ever panicked when someone asks you for an updated CV/Resume or preparing for an interview and you spend the next four nights trying to recall ‘stuff’?  Having a really rough week?  Pull out your IT file and flip through it.

Scale this idea to your team! “We’re Excellent” File = WE File. You can start building this in a weekly team meeting by reflecting on what’s excellent about your team, inviting a round table of reflections or naming the values that make your team gel. 

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Take Brain Breaks Every Hour

You can schedule these in your or your team’s calendars or stop by someone’s desk that you haven’t had a chance to connect with lately – just a walk around the floor can help, but 5 minutes of fresh, outdoor air is even better.  If you feel you can’t leave your desk, then stand up, stretch, do a few exercises and at least walk to get water and relieve yourself. 

Recognize Coping Tactics with Empathy

Many people joke when they’re uncomfortable or stressed. Unfortunately, joking isn’t a skill, it’s a coping tactic, that might not be serving you or your team. When you notice coping tactics like joking, passive aggression, avoidance or denial, recognize them in an empathetic way. It is an opportunity to inquire about how that person is really feeling. If you notice the use of coping tactics in a meeting, try to check in individually afterwards in a caring, one-on-one setting. Example: Hey, I notice you’ve been cracking a lot of jokes about the big project we have coming up, and I wanted to check in: how are you feeling about it?

Approach it as an observation, rather than a judgement.

You can also organize a regular time for your team to get together that doesn’t have to be centered on work. This is a time for your team members to have natural, unstructured conversations, and cope with stress if they need to in a healthy way. It can be a coffee and morning treats, a weekly after work get together. Keep it simple and consistent for best results.

Stay tuned for Lynne’s upcoming blog series on Empathy.

Encourage Balance and Lead by Example

Look after yourself – working 7 days a week isn’t going to help, in fact, it often creates more stress on your team as well as you (yes, even though you may be used to working this way). Maintain your healthy practices, whether that’s exercise, taking a break for meals, social time, and encourage others to do the same. It’s a great way to check out of a meeting: What is one thing you’ll do for yourself today?

Watch for signs that  you’re maxed out: Do you feel confusion? It’s usually a sign that your brain can’t think productively anymore. Yawning? Great time to get away from your screen, enjoy some quiet time or take one of those brain breaks we mentioned before.  Get up, stretch, turn your screen off & leave your phone on silent – all great ways to support yourself getting back on being productive and being productive. 

increase team morale

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