Use Communication to Combat Slipping Morale

Last Updated Oct 16, 2008 9:10 AM EDT

2087658526_07eb664df0_m.jpgWith the economy in a slide and many businesses either tightening their belts or shuttering their doors, it's no surprise that workers are struggling. Record-high fuel and food prices, declining home values, a weak dollar, and rising unemployment rates are hurting employee morale, and in a recent survey of 711 workers by Workplace Options, nearly half said financial stress is making it hard for them to perform well on the job.

What can you do to boost your team's confidence and productivity? The primary tool, says, is to communicate effectively with employees. Keep them apprised of major changes, present challenges in a realistic but positive way, and listen and respond to their needs.

Need help in conveying those messages? Watson Wyatt lists eight components to good communication:

  1. Be a leader - tell employees what you know, and what you don't.
  2. Show your strengths. Reinforce the core competencies and values that make your organization successful.
  3. Be visible. Convey your important messages in person, through Webcasts, or via other interactive vehicles.
  4. Use your team. Make sure the management team knows how and what to communicate, and that no one is a bystander.
  5. Be coordinated. Employees should hear company news from the company first.
  6. Share responsibility. Be clear about what you want your managers and your workforce to do.
  7. Forget about "message control." It's a myth. Instead, listen to employees, monitor the media, and have a process for quickly developing and distributing answers to rumors and for clarifying inaccurate statements, such as possible layoffs.
  8. Be humane. Acknowledge when employees are experiencing personal economic trauma and make them aware of any resources that can help, such as an employee assistance plan.
And if you want to spread some perspective to make people feel better, consider sharing Jeffrey Pfeffer's recent post on BNet's The Corner Office about the dangers of succumbing to the madness of current crowd-think. As he points out, we can't assume there's going to be another depression (or even a deep recession), since there's been an unprecedented amount of government intervention. Even in the worst economic times, there are companies (Apple, IBM, and Google are a few) that arise, grow, and prosper. And finally, a well-managed company with a strategy for sustainable growth (like yours, of course!) can weather even the most serious storm.

(image by Tavallai via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.