Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Meta was in the midst of a “morale crisis.”
The most obvious culprit is layoffs. Meta had already eliminated tens of thousands of positions, with thousands more on the way.
But if you read between the lines, there were more insidious culprits, too: a disconnect between leaders and the rest of the organization, mistrust between individual contributors and executives, and a lack of pride in Zuckerberg’s vision (specifically related to the metaverse).
Meta isn’t the only one going through morale crises. The Harvard Business Review this year wrote that “even skilled workers…suffer from chronic low engagement and productivity levels, while stress and burnout continue to rise.”
When it comes to morale issues, not everything is within a leader’s control. You can’t control macroeconomic conditions, or the impact they’ll have on your business.
But there is a lot that leaders can do to prioritize and nurture morale—so that when conditions get challenging, you can rely on a team of engaged, productive people to get through it.
5 things leaders can do to boost company morale
1. Help employees perfect their work-life balance. A key element of boosting morale is giving employees a sense of control: autonomy to run their lives in a way that fits with their preferences and priorities.
There have never been more tools at leaders’ disposal to do this. While there are certainly benefits to having some time in the office together, allotting a portion of the week for remote work gives employees this sense of control. Likewise, adding flexibility around work schedules and time off gives employees opportunities for balance.
2. Practice transparent decision-making. People find their work meaningful when they understand the why behind it—what the company’s vision is and how their role contributes. Employees who understand and believe in a leader’s vision are more likely to take pride in their work, and less likely to burn out or grow disengaged.
For leaders, clarity about decision-making and strategy is a must. You may assume that people can infer the motives behind your decisions, but the more transparent you are, the more you build trust throughout the levels of your organization.
3. Give employees a voice (and engage with them). To the point about building trust, people trust leaders when they feel they’re understood and taken seriously. The cliché of feeling like a cog in a wheel at a giant corporation exists specifically because there are so many layers of distance between individual contributors and executives.
Leaders at smaller companies have an advantage; when you’re a 70-person Series B startup, the CEO can make time to meet with everyone (and they should). But even at larger companies, there are ways—forums, webinars, in-person events—to give employees voices, and to take those voices seriously.
4. Clarify career timelines and advancement opportunities. Consider a long trip: How much more comfort does it bring you to have a clear ETA than to have to wonder how long it will take to reach your destination?
Likewise, employees want to understand their career timelines connect their day-to-day efforts to their overall arcs. Leaders should clarify these paths, and find opportunities to start these conversations.
5. Promote wellness. When in doubt, many employees tend to prioritize work ahead of wellness. Particularly in a tight economic market, it can feel like there’s pressure to justify one’s job at the expense of wellbeing.
To combat this, leaders should promote—and model—wellness activities. Employees shouldn’t feel that they’re stepping out of line when they prioritize exercise, hobbies, family time, and more.
Strong morale is a superpower—an accelerant during the good times, and a moat during tough times. Strong morale means better engagement, productivity, retention, and ultimately, success. Work on what’s within your control, so you can defend against what isn’t.