If your work environment has ever bummed you out, then you’ve likely experienced the toxic air of low morale. This all-too- common occurrence can infiltrate a workplace due to low pay, long hours, a lack of transparency and growth opportunities, favoritism, or myriad other reasons. Unfortunately, even the most successful companies are susceptible to sour office energy.
So, why is this such a problem? Well, how we feel about our workplace can have an immeasurable impact on overall productivity—not to mention worker satisfaction. HR consultant and author of the forthcoming book, Let’s Fix Work, Laurie Ruettimann says, “People quit when they feel disrespected. Turnover is an outcome of poor office morale.”
While the hope is that upper management will sweep in to save the day and correct any negative shifts in energy, all employees should feel empowered to take a part in shaping a positive workspace.
To find out how you can help maintain an equilibrium of good vibes at work, Ruettimann, along with a few other human resource experts shared their tips for keeping spirits high.
How to boost morale at work—according to HR pros:
Acknowledge the problem
HR specialist and recruiter Max Woolf says, “Acknowledge the problem if there is one. Do not try to shield your employees from the bad news. Be honest with them instead. Employees will appreciate your honesty, and you can combine efforts to solve a mutual problem.”
However, if the issue is specific to a certain employee, former HR worker Barry Rosenblum stresses the importance of making sure all disciplinary action is handled in a private manner. “No employee or fellow co-worker wants to be embarrassed in front of the rest of the office.”
Woolf notes it’s important to give recognition. He says one of the main reasons that people leave their jobs is because they don’t “receive credit for the time and energy that they’ve put into their work.”
HR consultant Laura Anderman agrees that showing gratitude is an important tenet of boosting morale. “Some of the most meaningful recognition I’ve received over the years has stemmed from my manager writing me a short note (handwritten is ideal) thanking me for my contribution to the company. Specifics are important here; providing a meaningful, concrete example instead of a generic platitude can reinforce the notion that you are personally making a difference. Managers showing that they care and recognize hard work goes a long way, and it can help shift the culture to one based on recognition.”
Anderman says you also need to understand what’s most valued by employees. “Are they achievement-oriented? A formal recognition ceremony with a plaque and a blurb in the company newsletter might do the trick. Does work-life balance mean a lot to your employees? If so, maybe an extra paid day off could be a nice reward for that employee.”
Hiring manager Darren Schreher adds that personalized birthday celebrations and monthly town halls that celebrate major wins go a long way to keep employees happy.
Perk up the office space
To keep morale high at the law firm Monique Hernandez is the office manager of, she “brings plants and art to enliven the office space.” Hernandez also looks for ways to offer “personal care to an attorney who has had a bad day, like facilitating a mani-pedi at the office.”
If budget is a concern, consider playing music throughout the office. Or, plan a DIY art night to create artwork to put up around the office. You can also brighten up your desk with these cute under-$20 accessories.
Plan team bonding events
Larry Sternberg, JD, co-author of Managing To Make A Difference,says, “Make efforts to develop and/or strengthen relationships among your co-workers. Ask about things that are important to them, such as their family, or their hobbies and interests. Organize some after-work social activities, such as going out for a drink.”
“However, when you’re out after work, don’t allow any complaining about work. Going out and bitching about work will hurt morale. If you cannot get together without complaining about work, don’t implement this technique.”
If you’ve talked to management or tried implementing some of these ideas yourself but aren’t seeing results, Ruettimann says it’s important to prioritize your own well-being. “Nobody can put your health and wellness first except you. If office morale is zapping your emotional and physical energy, there’s really only one response: Improve your sleep habits, get some exercise, eat less toxic food, and clear the cobwebs so you’re sharp and ready for your upcoming job interviews.”