Hey everyone,
This is my first post and I am hoping you all can help me out. So far I really enjoy everything Manager-Tools offers but I can't seem to find too much on morale. I am one of three shift supervisors for an industrial security/fire brigade, we have 4 shifts (2 day 2 night) and the total number of employees under my manager is about 28. Group morale is at an all time low and my manager, the other 3 shift supervisors and I can't really pinpoint any causes. We have tried talking to the people but they won't really tell us anything because I'm sure they are afraid of repercussions. I've suggested using a 3rd party person to interview everyone to see if we can get some real quality feedback but I don’t think my boss is going to go with that. Any other ideas?

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Based on what I have learned in the MT forums, everyone correct me if I mistaken, focus on *behaviors* rather than search for the cause.

As a shift supervisor, when you observe behaviors you wish to affirm offer positive feedback. Keep doing it. Give it time.
Example: "Hi Bob, may I give you some feedback?" (pause)
"When you check and sign the tags on the extinguishers regularly I have the assurance we will pass that portion of the next inspection. Well done and keep it up."

As a shift supervisor, do you meet one-on-one with each person on your shift? Developing that deeper understanding and relationship with your directs enables THEM to see that adjusting feedback is just is not personal criticism because you really want to see them succeed.

After providing positive/affirming feedback for an extended time THEN start with adjusting feedback like:, "Hi Bob, may I give you some feedback?" (pause) "When you say things like (blah) it makes people think that you do not care about safety. What can you do differently?" Or, "When you linger in Jim's office for an hour and 'chat' you have less time to: complete your inspection / complete your training / finish task x. What can you do differently"

Focus on your group. It is your team and your responsibility.

jrfireboy2's picture

You know honestly until I listened to the one-on-one pod cast I didn't think holding formal one-on-ones was necessary because I am on night shift and I usually make my way around to all of my guys. However after listening to the pod cast I realize how important it is to set aside that time weekly where they know they will have 30 minutes to discuss anything. Thanks for the feedback though. The tough part is going to be getting the other 3 supervisors of our group to follow in suit. I sent all of them the link to Manager-Tools tonight and hopefully they will use it as much as I am.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

When they see how night shift performance starts improving, the other supervisors will get the hint. :)

Focus on behaviors. Focus on your relationship with them. Morale will take care of itself. Teamwork will take care of itself. You take care of your people, they take care of you. Suddenly everything clicks into position.

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

In my experience you cannot improve morale, though you can certainly destroy it.

If you focus on behavior, and aligning behavior with your goals, and you start accomplishing those goals, people will feel better about the work they are doing. (Or they'll decide they don't like meeting those goals and leave to do something else.)

My management wasted a lot of time over the past three years worrying about morale. I tried to just focus on getting the work done, and my guys were always happier than I was.


jrfireboy2's picture

Guys I can't even begin to express how helpful this information is.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Glad we're helping.

Morale is a RESULT, an artifact, of behaviors and beliefs. You cannot "change morale". You can engage in professional behaviors which LEAD TO others changing their beliefs.

Relationships through one on ones. Performance through feedback. Improvement through coaching.


kenstanley's picture

There is always the 'Team Building 101' Members-Only cast from May 16 2007.

I went back to that one recently, just to brush up and revise.


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

[quote="jrfireboy2"]The tough part is going to be getting the other 3 supervisors of our group to follow in suit. [/quote]

If the other supervisors are your peers then still focus on *your* team first. Your efforts to improve *their* team may be misinterpreted.

From the Bible, Matthew 7:3,4 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when alll the time there is a plank in your own eye?"

Simply, I am slow to judge others because I have plenty of work to do with my own departments.

quentindaniels's picture
Training Badge

I can't believe no one has mentioned "Trust-Falls" yet! As we all know that real trust and morale can only occur through an off-site :lol:

(I believe M&M are coming out with a 4 part special on "Trust Falls" soon!)

:lol: :lol: :lol:

kenstanley's picture

quentindaniels, you are a funny man.:D

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I just assumed everyone used trust falls. We start every morning with them here.

We've had a request to up the ante a bit though. We're going to have them on the roof, then put some staff 3 stories down with one of those trampoline catcher thingies that firemen use. Anyone with a trust issue will be forced to jump. Kind of like walkin' the plank if we were pirates. :wink:

disclaimer: This is bad humor. Do NOT attempt this yourself.

jrfireboy2's picture

Again thanks everyone, I'll keep checking for any other feedback/advice anyone may have to offer. I'll also listen to the Team Building 101 pod cast tonight. :D

US41's picture

Most managers panic with low morale problems because they interpret low morale to mean that the problem is that the work environment or the work itself is awful, and then they puzzle over how to make people "happy" with dress-down days, prizes, parties, and other BS that usually falls flat on its face. Unhappiness is not the cause of low morale. There are plenty of people in military units who are out in the desert "over there" who are terribly unhappy who have extremely high morale. They believe they are members of elite units which few could become members of, and they believe they are good at their jobs.

Morale: When your team members believe that they make a difference to someone somewhere, that someone knows they are doing good work, and when they believe that the work that they do is of high quality - perhaps superior to others.

How to improve morale: Improve your behaviors which show them the difference they make, improve your measuring of their work and reporting to them and to others within and without the organization of their superior performance, and improve your behaviors giving positive feedback to the crew.

Also, if I may be so bold, as Mark and Mike say, "Search for the root of every problem in increasing concentric circles beginning with your own desk."

Are you the source through action or _inaction_?

Get your folks some objectives. Measure their ability to hit those objectives. Put up a scoreboard. Then start with the speech making and recognizing them and the efforts they make. Don't just hang a plaque on the wall with someone's name or give out awards. Smother them in positive feedback.

The leader's behavior is usually the source of low morale.

calangst's picture

Wow - you have gotten some really helpful feedback here. I think focusing on the behavior is exactly right. When people can do their jobs right and feel proud of their work, morale follows.

The only things I can think to add are 1. to keep the ratio of positive to adjusting feedback as high as possible and 2. look for ways in which your team might be undermined (e.g., is their gear up to spec, are you putting in enough training time, to they have what they need to do the job?) If they are getting some kind of mixed signals that could be the answer.

Probably not worth the effort given that you can make progress through the ways others have suggested, but you could always try out some kind of anonymous suggestion box (or its modern analog, the on line message board).

PierG's picture

in my experience: one on one and coaching are the key + GO FIRST!
Have a look at yourself: how do you behave?
Ciao and thank you for what you and all your colleagues do for the community!

jrfireboy2's picture

You're right, there is A LOT of helpful feedback. I've only been using some of the ideas from MT for a couple weeks and I have already seen great improvement on my shift. Thanks to everyone!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Glad we were helpful.

A note of caution to some: humor about management behaviors is far more delicate than you perhaps recognize. There is at least one person who has read this forum and asked me why we had NOT YET DONE the cast on trust falls.

The joke relies on a body of knowledge that our newer (and usually younger, but not necessarily) members cannot be counted on to have.

Let's say it this way: humor (it's usually satirical, but not exclusively) which recommends a BEHAVIOR for the recipient but relies on experience to ensure that the behavior is NOT followed (because it is satirical in nature) often is misunderstood...

[b]and results in private messages to me from embarrassed members who don't want to appear foolish but wonder if they really should do a trust fall, and what is a trust fall anyway.) [/b]


Sorry for the delay in responding. I regret my absence.

quentindaniels's picture
Training Badge

I'll take point for that one.

I am sorry to whomever read my post and interpreted it this way.

I will make my jokes explicitly clearer from now on. I did not mean to confuse anyone.

Thanks for sharing Mark.