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Improve Morale — Increase Motivation! Part Five

M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Note:  This article is part of a series taken from Dana Baldwin’s article Improve Morale-Increase Motivation originally published in Compass Points in January 2003.  Although this article was written in 2003, these tips are timeless.

In Part One, we defined morale and motivation and said that one way to improve morale is to build trust between employees and the management.  In Part Two we discussed one way to build trust.  In Part Three, we discussed effective delegation.  In Part Four, we discussed several reasons why managers don’t delegate.  In this article, we will discuss why some managers have a poor relationship with their subordinates.

Why do some managers have such poor relationships with their subordinates? How many of us have had something like the following situation? A small group is working on a project, but the work is being slowed by one of the group. Your reaction is to question what is wrong with this person. Why is he or she doing this? Can’t he/she see how important the project is, and what effect their behavior is having on the rest of the team? It is difficult to concentrate on the project when conflict interferes. How does one overcome this?

First, be sure you are not part of the problem. Often, a manager will see only one side of an employee. We see their function as a part of the company, and little else. We forget that people have many roles in life, and their role at work is only one of them. Individuals who are flexible and accommodating when they are single, may find themselves able to be much less flexible when the demands of a family and children present themselves. When a manager asks someone to do something out of the ordinary, which in years past they were able to do, and they no longer are willing to help out, the manager should ask him/herself what has changed in that person’s life that no longer allows them to be as accommodating as before. A little understanding of the situation can go a long way toward solving the differences before conflict becomes too heated. Ask what has changed in that person’s life and the answer may surprise you. It certainly will prevent some unnecessary clashes.

Next, don’t talk down to others. It is easy to blame someone when things don’t go as planned. For example, one person, talking down to another, indicates that the other has not been paying sufficient attention to the project. In response, the second person, also patronizing, says that the first person doesn’t know enough about the situation to make that kind of judgment. The result is two people angry at each other, and a setting for deteriorating relationships. How can one prevent this? Stay in control of your emotions. Don’t talk back to someone in the same mode — talking down. Shift the base of thought. Change the atmosphere and save the situation and the relationship.

Make sure both people have the same information, and share a common perception about the situation. It is easy to have poor communication, and the resulting poor relationships, when two people come from totally different points of view and do not take the other’s perspective into account. A first step to resolving conflict is to agree on the facts.

All of the items above are aimed primarily at minimizing distrust and building trust. They may sound basic, but the world is built on basics, and we have to get them right. As trust in one’s superiors grows, morale can improve. But there is not always a direct correlation between the two. The other side of this coin is motivation. Those who do much of the fundamental day to day work inside a company need some direction and vision to function effectively. They need to know where the company is going and how it will get there to have the intrinsic motivation to excel in their jobs. How does one develop this motivation?  We will discuss that in Part Six.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at:

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