How to Boost Employee Morale: What’s a Manager to Do?

When we talk about how to boost employee morale, it’s critical to understand what actually we mean by morale. It’s difficult to improve what we cannot clearly define.

Morale doesn’t perfectly equate to motivation, but to a much broader and sweeping attitude about the work we do.

The first thing that’s important to understand is that morale is a feeling. It’s an overall outlook. It’s an encompassing sense of confidence and satisfaction about the work we do that cannot be handed out or forced on anyone.

Instead, it has to be developed and nurtured by those in leadership positions.

7 runners engaged in a team huddle, with arms extended and hands stacked in the middle — a suggestion for how to boost employee morale.

With those facts in mind, it’s easy to see that strategies to improve employee morale will require a manager to influence and foster a number of factors that contribute to the environment of your organization.

It’s a positive work culture that most deeply affects the attitudes, feelings, and overall sense of satisfaction that make up morale.

For the person or people in charge, it’s the key to influencing how team members experience the work they do and their attitudes toward the culture they work in.

How to Boost Employee Morale — The Things You Can Control

What are the things that the boss, manager, or leadership can control? On what fronts can you implement strategies to enhance job satisfaction?

Share the Vision of Value — Everyone Needs a Reason to Believe

One of the best ways to improve employee satisfaction is to be sure people know that the work they do, both individually and collectively, serves a greater purpose. Many employees need to know that their work is more than just a job.

This sense of true merit can fuel the positive feelings that your employee’s workday or workweek matters, that the overtime they put in has true value beyond financial compensation.

A sense of altruism can certainly provide a positive uplift to tiring work, but it can also become obscured in the daily routine of worklife.

As a manager, reminding your team of the organization’s core values and greater purpose, in addition to recognizing how an individual’s personal values and work contributes to success, is a great way to boost employee morale.

Whether it’s making a difference to the success of the organization or impacting a social issue that contributes to a better world, the most valuable and effective employees feel that they are working together to produce something bigger than themselves. Start with why.

(You can read a case study here about how Integris works with organizations to help them transform their culture into all they hope it can be.)

Encourage a Sense That the Employee’s Professional Goals Can Be Met

Giving your employees hope and hunger for achieving their professional goals is one of the best ways for leaders to improve morale.

Compare an employee that’s feeling ambitious and hopeful and an employee experiencing a sense of being stymied and discouraged. Which employee is going to be a productive member of your team? Optimism about the future will produce better results every time.

In that vein, promoting and hiring from within strongly reinforces the idea that employees have a future within the organization and that their aspirations are possible.

This may require you to examine how you reassign and promote employees.

A sense of transparency and integrity around this process reinforces the morale-building sense of possibility, while a murky and poorly defined process leads to skepticism and distrust. Such negativity will undermine any progress you’ve made with employee morale activities or strategies to enhance job satisfaction.

Keeping in mind the original premise that employee morale is based on positive feelings and emotions, negativity about the future is a counterproductive notion a leader doesn’t want to foster.

Support Positive and Effective Interpersonal Relationships

Effective relationships that have a positive, productive underpinning are based on vulnerability-based trust. Team members need to understand on a fundamental level that everyone is working toward common goals and that the best ideas are on the table, with nothing held back.

This mutual sense of trust is critical when team members hold each other accountable for accomplishing their work. Peer-to-peer accountability, based a shared sense of purpose that is conducted in a professional and non-threatening manner, is key to keeping morale high even in rougher times.

Again, employee morale is based on positive feelings, and it’s up to the people in charge to prepare this foundation and model the behaviors necessary to maintain the attitudes that keep the work environment and culture healthy.

(Learn how the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ can create a foundation that leads to achieving the results your organization needs.)

Provide Training to Improve Communication and Boost Morale

Teams get work done by working together effectively. Successful collaboration can be tricky, but learning to communicate effectively can drastically influence team members’ positive feelings about day-to-day encounters in the workplace.

In addition to the foundation made up of trust, willingness to engage in healthy conflict around issues, and peer-to-peer accountability, understanding each other’s work and communication styles can go a long way towards productive and effective encounters that result in accomplishing the tasks at hand, even when team members disagree about the issues on the table.

Useful training tools, such as Everything DiSC® , can provide team members the necessary understanding of themselves and their coworkers to increase effectiveness and reduce negative friction when collaborating.

(Learn how Everything DiSC helped the San Diego Humane Society through a massive expansion while improving employee morale.)

In addition to providing training that supports more effective interpersonal communication, monitoring and keeping track of employee communication behaviors will allow you, as the manager, to take advantage of data-driven insight to identify opportunities to provide coaching on more effective person-to-person encounters. Such support from the direct supervisor will impact employee engagement, an element that greatly affects team members’ morale, without taking control of the situation or asserting authority.

The Bells, Whistles, and Addons — Quick and Creative Morale Boosters

While the supervisor, leader, or manager is busy influencing and improving these larger factors that form the backbone of a positive organizational culture, it’s important that they don’t forget the tiny details that make employees feel valued as individuals:

  • Remembering employees birthdays
  • Offering condolences in times of personal tragedy or hardship
  • Healthy treats at meetings show you care that your team is fueled and feeling well
  • Team building activities
  • Individual recognition for small tasks done well or for going the extra mile
  • Thank you notes

This list can go on endlessly. When delivered often and consistently, these simple acts send an impactful, concrete signal that employees are cared about and respected.

On the Minds of Managers Everywhere: Influencing Team Effectiveness

For the person or people in charge, it’s necessary to provide messaging, training, and individual guidance that contributes to employee morale and job satisfaction.

To learn more about how to forge the most effective team possible, click here.


Gwen Voelpel

Gwen Voelpel has 20 years of experience in coaching and mentoring leaders at all levels of organizations. She has an undergraduate degree in communications, a graduate degree in public administration, and has served as an executive leader in several organizations. Gwen is an accredited Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC Workplace Facilitator and a Certified Master in Training for The Leadership Challenge.