As a boss, knowing how to tell when your employees feel under-appreciated can be difficult. Employees generally put on a "brave face" until things get really bad. When they do, it's often much more difficult to help them dig out than it would have been to address the issues much, much earlier.
But how do you develop an "early warning system" so you can know when morale is waning? Well, it isn't as hard as it seems. Here are some tips to get you started.
Start By Listening - Really!
Meetings, email, business reporting - these can easily suck up all of your time as a manager. If you don't take the time to listen to your employees, though, you're setting yourself up for failure. Instead of lunch at your desk, go to the break room where you can catch some "scuttlebutt." Take a half hour in the afternoon to visit each of your staffers to ask how they're doing.
Checking in with each employee from time to time is a great way to relate to them on an interpersonal level. If employees feel under appreciated, it's critical that they view you not just as a boss, but as a human being.
Try and learn as much about your employees as you can. Get a sense of their opinions, hobbies, and interests - your connection will get stronger. Remember, a good leader should seek ways to create a warm, sustainable work environment.
If you're worried that your employees feel under appreciated, take a moment to step back and look at the big picture. What's going well in the office? Are things running as efficiently as they could be? If not, poor morale may be the root cause.
After the completion of a major project or task, take your employees out to show how much you value them. They'll love the feeling that they're being acknowledged, and the team will come together -- something that will benefit both you and your employees.
Do Employees Take a "Narrow View" of Work?
Do your employees feel powerful? Are they energized enough to charge through walls? What if the opposite is true - perhaps they view themselves merely as a cog in the machine or, worse yet, they see their situation and work as hopeless. In these situations, employees will stick to the basics - they'll take the "narrow view" of their roles.
If that sounds like your office, take some time to re-set with your team. Make sure you work side-by-side with them to get over whatever rough patch the team is experiencing. Remind them of the successes they may not be seeing and make extra effort to recognize individual accomplishments.
Do Employees Watch the Clock?
When it gets down to it, your employees spend more time at the office than at home. If a project needs some extra attention and no one wants to stick around, your employees may not feel appreciated enough to put forth the extra effort. If the office is vacant at 5:10pm, you may have a real problem.
Why would you want to spend extra time on something that you feel doesn't make a difference? Again, recognition is key - if employees know their results are contributing to a bigger picture, they will have more energy and drive.
You Can Impact Morale!
Bad morale at the office can be daunting. It can even spread to you if you're not careful. The good news is that the very actions needed to cure your team will also make you feel better. The simplest and most impactful is delivering appreciation for work done well.