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

(Continued)

"I found when I was empowered to write my own goals and objectives and took part in defining my role, I was more loyal — happier in my job," Parent said. "I felt more of an attachment."

A culture of empathy and optimism

Encouraging a feeling that we're all in this together builds team spirit.

"If there is a group of people who can all empathize with each other, a synergy and teamwork develop; an underdog mentality develops and builds morale," Parent said. "Together people work better and more efficiently."

She also encourages management to be as optimistic about the future as possible, while still being honest.

"I find optimism very important to how people adapt to change," Parent explained. "If you are optimistic, you are more likely to be more adaptable to change and, in turn, have higher morale. If there is hope, that should be communicated."

Parent observes that many personality characteristics are static within a person. Yet corporate culture, especially with respect to pessimism or optimism, is contagious.

"Managers shouldn't be Pollyanna, but we can be hopeful and work toward a goal and be optimistic about the future. It will really help with morale in difficult times," she said.

Of course, optimism must be based on reality. A diet of good news will not be credible if the bad news is withheld.

Pay attention to stress

Parent points out that it is stressful to work in a business that isn't profitable.

Employees and management, she said, need to address stress.

"Employees need to know they need an outlet so they can leave their job behind at times - a hobby, exercise," she said. "It's not avoidance, but a break from work."

Owners need an outlet, too.

"Often times small business owners never take a break."

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