by Steve Adubato, PhD

Last month a ceremony was held honoring several Newark police officers for their bravery on the job, and only a couple of dozen of their colleagues showed up. It was embarrassing to the police department and sent a powerful message about how morale within the department is not where it should be. Newark Police Director Gary McCarthy was clearly disappointed in officers not showing up telling the Star-Ledger; “There are things I took for granted and I am finding out that you can’t…”

One police officer said anonymously, “You are lucky to get guys to come to work when you are paying them. These are not happy cops that are out on the street.” Whether it is police officers, teachers, corporate managers or employees, morale is a key to organizational success. How do you keep people happy and productive and how much of that has to do with great communication? What do our employees want and need to stay motivated in these challenging times and what can you as a leader do to make a difference?

--Do show that you care about your people as individuals, not just employees. Some people say that business is not personal. That’s not true. Business IS personal on many levels because human beings have emotions and insecurities, and hopes and dreams. So much of these very human factors play out in the workplace.

--Do go out of your way to catch employees doing something right. This often doesn’t come naturally to managers. You have to really look for it and want to see it. It is so easy to be blinded by people falling short or not meeting our expectations as a manager that we miss when they get it right. Do look for it and when you find it, immediately let that employee know exactly how much you personally appreciate it and how the organization benefits from their efforts; “Jim, I can’t thank you enough for the job you did yesterday at the meeting. Your contribution helped us solve a nagging problem and will save the company a lot money. We all appreciate it.” Jim will feel on top of the world and will be motivated to do more and take risks, ultimately making a big difference in the organization. It will also send a message to fellow employees.

--Do take the time to check in with your people and find out how they are feeling about what they are doing. Sometimes employees have to do certain jobs that they don’t want to, but are necessary. However, that doesn’t mean that the way the job is done can’t be changed or improved. Get an employee’s thoughts on finding a new way of doing old tasks; “Jane, what exactly would you change to get job X done in a more efficient or effective manner?” The more input Jane has into the way she does her job, the more motivated is likely to be.

--Don’t take your people for granted because they are currently doing a good job. Similar to a marriage, if we simply assume everything is fine, it doesn’t mean it is going to stay that way. You have to keep investing in the relationship without taking each other for granted. The same thing is true with employees. In the workplace, employees’ attitudes change, even in our best and most productive people.

--Don’t avoid dealing with the employee who just doesn’t seem to get it right or is “difficult” to deal. Many managers avoid confrontation like the plague, yet in avoiding this “difficult” employee, it communicates a powerful message that the status quo is acceptable when that’s not the case. Of course it is easier to turn a blind eye, but this comes at a hefty price. Don’t avoid your “problem people” because they will only become a bigger problem later.