How To Deal With Low Morale During A Recession


I was recently asked by a National newspaper to give their readers some ways to recognize the signs of low morale and employee stress, and to offer some tips for dealing with both challenges.

Worry causes stress and right now job insecurity is every employee's biggest worry - no-one can  guarantee that people won't lose jobs - who knows how much longer the recession will last  - but what you can do, as a team leader, manager or business owner,  is be ‘aware' of the signs of low morale and stress, and step in as quickly as possible to do something about it.

If you are a ‘sensory' manager or business owner - you will actually ‘feel' low morale. You will sense a deadness or an apathy in your people. And being sensory you will pick up that lack of energy very quickly.

However, for non-sensory managers or owners, there are some very clear signs that morale is dipping in your team or business.

The signs are:

  • Sickness levels will increase as people start to succumb to various bodily symptoms - headaches; insomnia; an increased susceptibility to colds and flu because they are feeling low
  • Accidents will increase as a result of low attention to detail
  • Productivity will be affected - and no amount of whip cracking will help

So here are my ten tips for dealing with low morale and worker stress during a recession - or during ANY turbulent times...

  1. COMMUNICATE - in the absence of real information (even bad news) employees will speculate; the gossip mill will be rife and stories become embellished with the telling. Be honest and be honest frequently. Keep people informed
  2. Celebrate the good stuff - even if there isn't much to celebrate right now FIND SOME THINGS - and do this also on a frequent basis - like ‘Today we salvaged a customer who was going elsewhere and we did it by offering them the very best customer service and care'
  3. Involve your staff - have regular brain storming session about ways to create efficiencies and reward the best ideas with 2 movie tickets ($40 won't break the bank)
  4. Have a ‘theme' of the week - like this week we are going to have a ‘quality' drive - anyone who can improve the quality of any system or process  can have Friday afternoon off
  5. Do an employee draw and let the winner spend a morning in a different department - amazing what people see in another area
  6. If the office or plant is fairly quiet - ask everyone to write down ONE THING I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN on a piece of post-it pad - and ONE THING I'D LIKE TO TEACH - and let people pair up for a couple of hours a week
  7. Offer a Mystery weekend for the very best idea anyone can come up with for a new product or service
  8. Organise a few impromptu things - like ask everyone to bring in a plate and have a joint breakfast - organize a temp for ONE HOUR to man the phones - use this opportunity to let your people know how much you value them.
  9. Have a weekly employee draw and let the winner go out and visit a client or a supplier- getting to know our customers and suppliers face-to-face is a huge energy boost for both parties - they may even come back with an order or reduced supply cost!
  10. Instead of an ‘employee of the week' which has become a bit yawn, yawn, have a competition one Friday afternoon for joke of the week - or song of the week - or story of the week... prize can be as simple as a bar of chocolate

When I sent the tips over to the journalist she commented that what I seemed to be saying was have more ‘fun' at work. Yes and no.  Fun is great - I have no problem with creating a fun place to work. But this is about more than fun - it is about re-energising people; which is very different from just having a fun day. After all, who will appreciate a fun theme when their job is at risk - it is almost insulting.

So the theme to my tips is more about finding cheap ways to keep people energized and interested - there is nothing that affects productivity so much as lack of energy. 

My belief is that if you keep finding ways to keep the energy levels high, even though sales might be low, people will be motivated to come to work; they will be motivated to get involved in all the productivity improvement ideas, because involvement has been fun and creative rather than a whip across their shoulders.

Recessions can be the best thing that has ever happened to your business. They can actually bring your business to LIFE!


Ann Andrews CSP specialises in working with high performing teams and showing managers how to deal with poor performance.

You may also like:

Filed under Leadership Development. Posted by The Corporate Toolbox on