I think that we can all agree that our reputation, whether it is our personal reputation or that of our company or organization is a precious asset that, if mishandled, can have disastrous consequences for us. We also know that with a relatively few, usually high-profile exceptions, even the worst of reputations can be turned around with enough work and time. The key word here being time. If you have gotten yourself into a bad situation, either through one or two mega screw ups, or through a long string of less than desirable behaviors, standing up and saying that you are a changed man/woman isn’t going to cut it. Even when you change your behavior and start making better choices, it is going to take time before you actually start to move the needle.
Now you probably know from previous blog posts that I am not opposed to removing bad apples. The saying that one bad apple ruining the whole bunch is often true, but if you have a morale problem, that can’t be your only weapon.
As a manager, it may be tempting to shock and awe your way to improved morale. People are leaving, all are saying that the work environment is just not worth it anymore. Congratulations, you have a morale problem, so let’s start firing people! I mean if you look close enough, you can certainly find some policy they are violating, and if not, well make some policies! This isn’t that hard, really. If they don’t want to be here, let’s just get them the hell out of here and make room for people who do want to be here! Turnover, shmernover. So what if unemployment is 3%, there are people who want to work here! People who will respect my management! And if they don’t? Adios, vaya con Dios.
You are laughing, or at least I hope you are, if not at the seemingly endless depths of my humor, at least at the absurdity of this. But let’s get real – it happens.
I am sure I don’t have to tell you that addressing morale this way does not address the issue, it really doesn’t even address the symptoms. Sure, people may complain less out loud, but do you really think you are making matters better? All you are doing is adding more fuel to the fire, a fire that you are only making bigger and choosing to ignore.
The only way to deal with low morale is to treat people with respect. Yes, sometimes treating people with respect is holding them accountable. As a leader, a huge part of your job is to ensure that those people entrusted to you are able to come to work and be their best selves. Treating people with respect means being consistent in your dealings and not treating some people with favoritism. Treating people with respect means allowing for leniency when it is warranted and understanding that people have lives.