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It’s no secret that team morale ebbs and flows — with an emphasis on ebb at the end of the year.

Whether you’re an entry level assistant or manager, there are simple ways you can crank up the feel goods.

We’d been working a seemingly endless series of late nights and weekends and, as I looked around the room, I saw defeated looks on everyone’s faces.

We were tired and energy was noticeably low. We’d once been a quick-to-laugh, outgoing, and enthusiastic team, but that was no longer the case.

You’ve been there too, haven’t you?

Whether it was because of long hours, stress, repeated disappointments, or other circumstances, I’m sure we’ve all experienced situations of low team morale.

It’s no fun, I know. Productivity slows. Patience declines. Everything becomes grey and sluggish.

I can’t promise that you’ll never experience low team morale again.

However, here are a few easy and quick things you can do to boost spirits when they’ve abruptly dipped:

If you’re a member of a team:

1. Say Thank You Often And Mean It

This may seem minor, but reminding your teammates that you’re grateful for their help and presence goes a long way – particularly when everyone’s motivation has dipped.

I know that a few words of appreciation are sometimes all the encouragement I need to keep going. People want and need to know that their efforts are meaningful and not going unnoticed. It’s weird when you open the door for someone and they don’t thank you, right?

If your teammates are going out of their way to help you and/or the team, the least you can do is recognize their efforts and tell them thank you.

Besides, when team morale is low, that’s when it’s most important to stick together as a team. Tough times are much easier to overcome when everyone is supporting each other.

2. The best way to a co workers heart? Yep.

You can’t go wrong bringing food. We all know the power of food too: its ability to build community and bring smiles to people’s faces.

On a past project, for example, my team had weekly status update meetings with the client each Tuesday morning and, at one point, it essentially entailed the team explaining to the client why the project was delayed week after week.

The team was finding unexpected bugs in the code and working tirelessly to resolve the issues, but, understandably, the client was not pleased and these status update meetings were incredibly tense.

They also left everyone feeling defeated. One week, however, my project manager had a great idea to bring in bagels for the meeting. And it was like magic! Everyone’s spirits seemed to lift and morale increased dramatically.

So bring food when morale is low. It’ll do wonders.

3. Crack stupid jokes

Colleagues have sent me gifs or memes making fun of our work situation in the past and it has always been exactly what I needed. What kind of humor is appropriate will, of course, depend on your team’s culture and personality, but who doesn’t feel good from a little laughter and humor?

If you’re a manager of a team:

When you’re leading a team, you have an even greater responsibility – and opportunity – to boost team morale. Along with the above, here a few strategies that my managers and I have successfully employed:

1. Say thank you often and mean it

This is important enough to say again.

I think it’s safe to say that we all feel good when our superior takes the time to recognize our work and remind us that we’re doing great work. When morale is especially dismal, this should be done even more overtly and even more often.

As a manager, your words can be a compelling motivator for the rest of the team.

2. Let people stretch out

A common reason I’ve seen morale drop is because of long hours, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Moreover, usually the greater disappointment is not so much because of the long hours, but the need to cancel plans with friends or other fun activities.

Subsequently, giving people autonomy over their schedule and how or when they complete their work is a great way to counteract unfortunate situations.

I definitely appreciate and have more energy to finish my work when I’m able to take breaks. When I have a lot of work, it’s nice to still be able to head out and grab dinner with friends before heading back to finish work.

I’ll still get my work done, and my average level of happiness is higher. {Click to Tweet}

3. Celebrate the smallest wins

It’s easy to allow the team to keep their heads down and keep chugging along, but celebrating small wins is a great way to inject some positivity.

The celebration doesn’t have to be a full-blown affair either. Maybe it’s just an afternoon ice cream break or passing out thank you cards to everyone on the team.

Celebrating the small wins can break up long, tiring stretches of working.


4. Be honest and forthcoming 

Don’t pretend that the tough situation is okay. Acknowledge that the status quo is not ideal. Tell the team that you know they are working hard, morale is low, and energy is fading.

On top of that, try to be transparent about what’s going on behind the scenes and, if possible, tell the team about what you are trying to do make the situation better.

Being authentic and forthcoming will show the team that you genuinely care about them and want to boost spirits.

5. Loyalty counts so protect the team

Frequently, morale dips in relation to added pressure from leadership.

Leadership is asking and expecting the team to complete some goal and, even though the team putting forth its best efforts, leadership continues to exert pressure or raise expectations.

As a manager then, it’s important to protect the team: to push back when leadership suggests unrealistic turnaround times, to stand up for the team when leadership unfairly criticizes the team’s ability and effort, to remove barriers standing in the way of the team, etc.

Knowing that my manager has my back has motivated me to keep going, even in stressful times.

6. Lead by example

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but especially important when morale is low.

The team needs their manager to set an example and continue to be motivating and positive. When I’ve felt beaten down at work, but then saw my manager remain upbeat and steadfast in her work, I’ve immediately felt encouraged to follow in her footsteps.

As a manager, you set the tone for the team. It’s your responsibility to set positive example and lead the team through tough times.

Whether you are a team member, a manager, or a little of both, there are things you can do to quickly raise morale on a team. Your team will thank you for it, too.


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