At one point or another we all seem to run into a person who simply can’t or won’t act as a team member. Rather than contribute expertise to a common problem, they offer reason after reason why their participation is simply not necessary. Perhaps they fear taking “ownership” of a problem or don’t want to risk failure in front of an entire organization. Maybe they are just unhappy in their position or with their manager and believe this is an appropriate way to express it.
Whatever the reason, the impact of such behavior can have significant consequence for every member of the team.
In these situations dismissing someone’s poor attitude as a personality flaw is a mistake. It is certainly frustrating to deal with a stubborn individual, especially in the middle of a problem that requires “all hands on deck.” Who has time to babysit the feelings of a malcontent that isn’t willing to help put a fire out?
Most often, the latent issue most organizations must deal with is low or eroding morale. Morale, as defined by dictionary.com is “the emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition, hardship, etc.”
It’s easier to appreciate the importance of morale when the effect on workplace performance is clearer. Morale is indeed directly connected to the productivity range of a team and requires constant attention by company leaders to not only ensure the highest levels of performance, but to guard against talent loss.
A lack of leadership is one of the leading reasons employees cite for low morale. Einstein’s belief that “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created” suggests that leaders must address morale issues with more purposeful tactics; let’s face it, one evening of drinks might raise spirits for a few hours, but not much more than that. Therefore, take deliberate and continued steps to improve the morale within your sphere of influence.
Establish a Culture of Trust: This is one of the most important objectives leaders must strive for on a constant basis and one that will keep morale moving in the right direction. Employees must trust that there is a depth of mutual respect that allows team members to rely on each other and that management will ensure a climate to speak candidly, especially when things are not going so well. This type of trust is established over a long period of time, but once established, is picked up by new employees almost immediately.
Promote Transparency: Team members feel better – and perform better – when they believe they know why important decisions are made and what the broader plans are for the organization. This comfort allows them to focus on their work and not speculate about why a new head of the ABC department was brought in.
Recognize Achievement: Lead by example and encourage all team members to recognize the achievements of others. Remember to say “thank you” often and distinguish employees for their hard work and commitment. Publicly communicating appreciation to the team demonstrates acknowledgement of their efforts and the value of their contributions. Low morale is an emotional issue and requires an emotional connection to steer it in the right direction.
Take The Bad Apples Out Of The Barrel: Sometimes a few bad employees can poison the entire team. When leaders discover this, immediate and public action is called for. Employee morale declines when egregious behavior is tolerated and there appears a different set of rules for some. If a member of the team simply doesn’t want to play ball, recognize there is a bad fit and explain to the broader team the reason why a good fit is so important to the organization and to every team member’s success.
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