EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Weathering the Storm

January 22, 2009

Build a happy place

Keeping up workplace morale helps retain workers through toughest times


Gain participation

Parent's research has shown that employees respond more positively to change that they've been able to participate in, at least to some extent.

"When everybody is allowed to participate at all levels of the organization, from the mail room to the board room, more creative ideas will come about," Parent said. "A business owner has to be open to having ideas bubble up from the bottom."

She suggests giving employees a business goal and having them suggest ways of achieving it.

One organization she studied, a large city library, told employees they needed to cut costs by 10 percent. The employees worked amongst themselves and subsequently found 10 percent savings without anyone being laid off.

"Often we get this victim mentality when the economy takes a down turn," she said.

Good managers have long known that giving employees a chance to help solve problems gives employees a greater sense of control and some ownership in the change, too.

Define clear roles

With downsizing or the elimination of contractors, jobs change.

These changes often mean employees are required to do more work and possibly of a nature they didn't do before. And these changed expectations need to be made explicit.

"When your role is clearly defined in the organization, your morale is better," Parent said. "Make sure everyone has clear roles and they understand those roles."

She suggests personal employee reviews with defined job goals and objectives.

"What does the change in work mean to the employee?" is a question that needs answering, she said.

Responsibilities that just settle onto an employee because those who were doing that work are now gone give cause for resentment. Everyone needs to know what is expected of him or her, and have management acknowledge when that expectation changes.

If employees can participate in redesigning their own role, all the better.

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