Maintaining Morale in Tough Times

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Categories: Teams

Imagine that the project you're managing has to be "right sized" for reasons outside your control. How would you keep up the team morale?

My team and I recently went through this process. (Thankfully, if you manage projects in a large corporation, you can sometimes relocate displaced team members to other parts of the organization. On my team, some of the people were able to be relocated.)

For those who remained on the project, here's what I did to maintain morale, learning a few valuable lessons along the way.

•    Communicate to your team openly. The worst thing you can do is to withhold information. Make a plan. Reserve a portion of your normally scheduled team meetings to keep everyone up to date on the current situation and listen for any concerns.

•    Explore, don't avoid, emotions. When a team member raises an issue or concern, don't wait for the chance to sit down one-on-one with him or her. Take the time right away to listen, understand and listen more.

•    Plan a course of action. 1. Inventory your team members' skill sets. 2. Analyze team member strengths that could benefit other projects. 3. Establish a specific follow-up meeting to communicate any news.

•    Focus on the future. After the restructuring, bring the team together and set the focus on the path ahead. Communicate the roles and responsibilities to mitigate any confusion between team members, which could lead to loss of morale. Without clear roles and responsibilities, it's like trying to drive uphill with the brakes on.

This "right-sizing" exercise has been a learning experience but I hope it will be a long while before I see another one ...

Also see the article, Motivating Team Members in an Insecure Job Market, from PMI Community Post.

Posted by Neal Shen on: September 24, 2009 11:26 AM | Permalink


Kaveh Javani
That was interesting. In addition to your points, right management in this situation depends on the last behaviour of project manager with the members. If the personnel are not satisfied from the behaviour or management method of project manager, to be open can act adversly.

PM Hut
I think what you're saying applies at all times, regardless of whether or not it's tough times. Either way, I have noticed that when there are cuts, the people who won't be fired are told of the cuts first (a week or 2 before), just to assure them. In this case, the morale of such people increases (they're not afraid of getting fired anymore). Usually the people fired/laid off are not very productive and that's why they're the first to go, their teammates won't even feel a difference.

macgeorge baidoo
I think that in view of the reduction in staff and resources it is also important to encourage team members to share information especially if it is an INNOVATION and to keep you, the team leader, abreast.

Liz St. John
These are character-building times. The real masters at managing people and resources will be identified during these periods in history.

This is a period when leaders emerge and I see project managers in that league of knowledge resources. We are ready to compete with the best in the world. I say, "Let the games(Olympics)begin!

Great Work! Keep it fired up!

The company who employs a person after several considerations must have a forecast projections and must have a good marketing and sales capability. Many a times, there is politics in office (unavoidable?) and nepotic way to get stick with job etc. Per PM Hut comments, when there is dirty politics productive or proactiveness of person often blinded. A firm should only recruit people when they are capable of doing projected business and proper vision.

Dr. Ahmad Al-Ani, MD,PMP, CPHIMS
I agree with you Neal.

In simple straightforward projects, you maybe focusing on other issues and techniques, but definitely, in tough times, being open and more importantly, honest with your team members, is the shortest way to get things done.

Also, to be aware of what kind of info I give to who, when, and be very careful and sensitive to different personality types and work positions. One may not be 100% perfect in handling such issues, but trying harder and being focused will ensure a favorable outcome.

This enforces the importance of good communication and team management, at all times, which will make things easier at bad times.

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