Uppers for the Summer Downdrums

Shawnee Love   •  
August 11, 2011

Now that the dog days of summer have finally arrived, managers can be forgiven for assuming that the office will be filled with smiling happy people. Although there are many places where the morale builds over the summer, in my work, I see a lot of offices where the faces are glum as employees watch other people go away on vacation and stress out about picking up the slack. Managers beware:

Employee Attitudes are contagious and negativity can easily infect your whole team not to mention turn off your customers.

The Rx for leaders and managers with morale issues is:

  1. Be clear, the negativity isn’t acceptable.
  2. Go to the sources of the pessimism and find out if the negativity is caused by a problem you can fix or if it is just the way the person is.
    • If it is solvable (within reason), take care of it.
    • If it isn’t solvable, be honest and revisit #1 again.

Interestingly, even if you fix the problem, morale doesn’t necessarily improve without help. Fortunately,when it comes to morale and attitude, sometimes a change is as good as a rest.  Here are some ideas to help spice up the workplace and kickstart the fun:

  • Casual Fridays or some version of a summer dress code
  • Surprise your employees with Popsicles on a hot day or champagne and strawberries (not enough to make anyone tipsy, just for fun)
  • A “get out of jail free card” allowing them a free afternoon off of their choosing to be used before the end of summer
  • Potluck lunch or even cater one in
  • Picnic or barbecue in the parking lot
  • Prizes for correctly answering trivia questions.  You can give away movie tickets, starbucks gift cards, company swag, etc.
  • Bring your pet (or kid) to work day
  • Hire a massage therapist to come by and offer free 10 minute massages in the meeting room
  • Initiate a lunchtime fitness program (or any kind of wellness program for that matter)
  • Encourage volunteering by helping at a soup kitchen for lunch
  • Start a company vegetable garden or adopt a pet (I have always been partial to fish tanks in the office)
  • Rent a video game terminal or pinball machine and announce silly prizes for worst shot, most improved, etc.

These ideas are some fairly simple and inexpensive examples of things I have tried in the past, but are only a drop in the bucket of what can be done.  One way to really get your people involved and raise morale in the process is to give your employees a budget (time and money-wise) and have them come up with the morale building ideas themselves.

One final note on morale is that if you are finding attitudes to be a problem at your company, consider adding attitude screening into your hiring process.  Find out whether you candidates’ “cup is half full or half empty” and avoid negativity and pessimism going forward by saying no to the Eeyore‘s of the world.