Vanishing bonuses, nonexistent expense accounts, and the threat of being laid off at any minute have everyone feeling on edge. If there's ever been a time for a morale boost, this would be it. Here, some ways to motivate your team and make them feel loved -- before you end up staple-gunning each other to the desks.
1. Have a friendly competition. Getting your company involved in some sort of challenge against other organizations (such as a kickball tournament or a charity fund-raiser) can be a great way to rekindle camaraderie (and redirect four-letter words).
2. Make Friday "theme day." Maybe everyone has to wear their favorite hat, bring in a photo from their favorite vacation, or share an embarrassing moment. Awards go to the best or to the one that gets the most laughs.
3. Ask for their input. Really, there's only one way to know how employees are feeling about their jobs, and that's to go straight to the source. A suggestion box or a simple survey asking how processes could be tweaked will not only make them feel better, but it will improve the company overall.
4. Share improvement. When the company is restructuring, changes are being made, and their co-workers are being shown the door, employees want to be able to recognize a silver lining. As soon as there are positive results to report (increased productivity, new business acquired, etc.), make them public knowledge.
5. Offer a fun (and inexpensive) perk. Free laundry service, a massage therapist, concert tickets, "late Mondays" -- there are a hundred different ways to go. If you're really feeling frisky, provide a few options and let them pick the one they want.
6. Have off-site meetings. Watch as everyone automatically breathes a little easier in a neutral surrounding. A change of atmosphere will reenergize the group and allow everyone to get to know each other in a different light.
7. Be creative with memos. Quote song lyrics, share a YouTube video, or reference a celebrity train wreck -- whatever your crowd is likely to appreciate. It won't take more than two minutes of your time, yet it can completely transform the mood of the day.
8. Encourage bad ideas. Yes, it's the good ones you're aiming for, but people won't feel comfortable offering up any if they're afraid a single stupid one will send them packing. Enforce a No Squelching rule in meetings and brainstorms.
9. When all else fails, give free food. If employee morale is really in the dumps, lighthearted attempts might be lost upon them, or even resented. Keep it straightforward with Bagel Mondays or Pizza Fridays and they'll be pleased just to save a few bucks and spend some time away from the desk.