Government employees were adversely affected by the partial shutdown, missing two paychecks and facing a backlog of work when they returned to the office. A study from the Senior Executives Association (SEA) on Dec. 13 further highlighted the overburdened state of the federal workforce. So what contributes to low morale, and what can employers do about it?
First, some workers may be disillusioned by the demands of their jobs after the shutdown. Furloughed employees are, in some cases, far more behind in their work than their excepted counterparts, who may have had to delay operations because of lack of personnel. To help ease this burden, managers and colleagues can limit the influx of emails that employees have to respond to, for example.
The classification of excepted and non-excepted personnel may have led some to question whether their positions and contributions to the workplace are valued. This could lead to a decrease in morale among furloughed or non-excepted employees, in particular. Morale also suffered among many excepted employees or those who were expected to work without pay. Managers and senior leaders should do their best to emphasize the importance of every federal employee and touch base with individuals who may be expressing disheartenment.
The uncertainty of not knowing when the next paycheck will come in, if at all, if the government shuts down again, has led to people taking cost-cutting measures. Based on conversations with federal employees, it’s clear that many feds are in survival mode, which makes it tough to fully focus on the mission of their agencies. While most of the blame is being directed toward the government system that allowed workers to go without a paycheck, agencies should still direct workers to available resources.
Here a few additional tactics employers can use in any circumstance to boost morale:
1. Remind employees about the mission or purpose of their workplace function. Allowing individual workers to be cognizant of how their work ties into a bigger picture could lead to greater awareness of personal impact. Give your employees sufficient reason to believe in their agency or company and their role within it, and morale will naturally rise.
2. Foster connectivity and recognition within a department. You can enhance a workplace by recognizing accomplishments, whether through an online platform like YouEarnedIt or a physical board of some kind that employees can contribute to. This helps build an environment of encouragement and positive reinforcement, which can never be remiss in a workplace.
3. Consider and incorporate the personal passions of employees when distributing work. This shows that you care about employees beyond their workplace contributions. Even if employees want to pursue something outside of their job description, like automating a process, consider their desires as well as the desires of the agency. People want to be heard, and even if it isn’t possible to allow everyone to pursue their own interests, they should still know that their opinions and potential contributions are valuable.
4. Allow for social events. These don’t necessarily have to happen within working hours or come with a cost, but they should be on the workplace radar. Something like a Wednesday trivia night or a Friday evening get together could allow employees to bond outside of work and create relationships that boost morale.
What are some factors that could improve your workplace? Let us know in the comments below.
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