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How to Boost Morale When Things Are Grim

by | May 7, 2012 | General Career Advice

It’s no secret that times are tough. The economic outlook seems to change by the minute and the only thing certain is that things are still uncertain. That’s why I thought this recent question from my free coaching call was worthwhile sharing with others. No matter what your situation, you just never know what the future holds, so hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Here’s the question:

Several of my co-workers and I have been told that we will no longer be needed and have been given our last date of employment with our company. How can we keep morale up while we are still employed?

First off, this person has an amazing attitude. Instead of simply checking out, she’s concerned about trying to keep the team (and herself) in good spirits and productive right up to the last minute with their current employer. What a way to go! In my opinion, that’s taking the high road. This person doesn’t want to burn bridges or let her team descend into angst in their final days. She wants them to leave with their heads held high, showing that this bump in the road hasn’t gotten the best of them. You go girl!

As for recommendations, I have a few. It’s important to avoid prolonged gripe sessions. It’s way too easy to stew over the situation and, especially when an entire group is affected, let the emotions boil endlessly. It might feel good for a moment, but it’s not helpful in the long run. Ultimately, it just makes everyone feel worse. So go ahead and vent—get it out and then move on.

The same thing goes for placing blame and pointing fingers. It doesn’t help to label certain people as the “bad guys”. Remember that often, those who are left behind after layoffs suffer tremendously with survivor’s guilt. Don’t try to make it harder for them. Chances are, the choice was out of their control.

One last thing to avoid here: Coulda-woulda-shoulda thinking. This only leads to regrets. You can’t change the circumstances so don’t go there. Give yourself the gift of releasing the past and focusing on the future.

I know it sounds trite, but the old cliché is really true: When one door closes, another one opens. You and your co-workers will find new opportunities. In my experience, most people end up better off after something like this. Why? Because getting laid off really triggers your survival instinct. It can be stressful, yes. But it also can lead to all kinds of creative, new ways of thinking. You’ll start re-evaluating your skills, your values, your career goals and your life dreams in a way that, perhaps, you wouldn’t have done in the safety of employment. Keep this in mind as you move forward. The future is indeed bright, no matter how dark it feels right now.

That being said, it’s critical that you take a proactive approach to managing your stress. Do everything you can to take care of yourself, now more than ever before. Think of all those things you know but often don’t give the proper attention to—like taking breaks, eating right and exercising. These simple actions can make a world of difference.

And have fun! If you want your team to keep their morale high, make it as fun as you possibly can. Put some music on, schedule a weekly lunch outing, take afternoon walk breaks. Heck, plan a going away party for yourselves. Lighten up the mood in any way you can. But of course, be respectful of your team. Remember that everyone processes things differently and some people may have a hard time seeing the “light” in this moment. Be a source of positive inspiration and a shoulder to lean on when needed.

Lastly, I encourage you and your team to prepare as best you can. Spruce up your resume; get out into the community and network, network, network; start the job search process now so it doesn’t sneak up on you. The more you prepare for the future, the less anxiety you’ll feel about it.

I wish the best of luck to anyone who is in this situation or anything similar. I know how hard it is to keep a tough exterior when things are feeling out of control. Remember that these things don’t have to tear you down. You can’t change the event, but you do have the power to manage your response. And that can make a world of difference on the outcome.

Photo Credit: Dawn (Willis) Manser (Flickr)

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About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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