When I was a middle manager, a peer and I were given an unexpected deadline that required our employees to work a significant amount of overtime in a three week period. We both met the deadline, but realized very different outcomes as a result of our differing approaches.
My approach: I brought my team together and we determined what needed to be done by whom. Together, we identified interim milestones and held regular meetings to make sure things were on track. I empowered my employees and allowed them to work whatever hours they chose as long as the milestones were met. Each employee was aware of how their work impacted the work of their peers, so they ensured they met their own deadlines. We emphasized the importance of communication and teamwork, and people pitched in to help each other when needed. As a result of this project, my team became stronger, helping each other along the way. Morale was better than ever and we were proud of our accomplishments.
The other approach: My fellow manager determined what needed to be done by whom and then assigned specific tasks to employees. A set schedule was established in which employees were required to work until 8 pm every weeknight and all day each Saturday. Those hours were mandatory, and no consideration was given for other commitments. Flexibility was non-existent and communication was poor. Employees were resentful of the manager, the company and each other, and morale and productivity reached an all-time low. The deadline was met, but at what cost?
Did my peer intend to destroy morale? Of course not! But by not including the employees in the process, that’s exactly what happened. The needs of the employees were not considered, and communication was top-down. Sound familiar?
How else might you be hurting morale? Be aware that if you are regularly late to meetings, you are sending a message that you do not respect the time of others and, by extension, do not respect them. Do you ask for new ideas and suggestions and then ignore them? If you do not provide feedback to thank the employee for the suggestion and to help them understand why the suggestion is not being implemented at this time, you are effectively discouraging future suggestions. Why should they make the effort? Good leaders are always aware of their impact on others. Remember, perception is reality!