5 Steps for Improving Workplace Morale

Improving morale in the workplace is one of the toughest issues to deal with as a facility manager.

By Kris Byk, Contributing Writer  

Improving morale in the workplace is one of the toughest issues to deal with as a facility manager. Why? It is because we deal with humans, not robots or machines. Everyone has a different personality, skillset, and work ethic. Balancing these and other factors can be a daunting and almost impossible task at times. 

Here are a few suggestions to help navigate through this day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year endeavor.  

I work at a 400,000 square foot facility on 36 acres with 10 maintenance employees and 15 cleaners. We are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. But that’s our job. We not only have our normal school events, but we have our school’s sports, host other events, and rent our building to outside groups. We are, in fact, the high school that never sleeps. On top of staffing these events, we have construction projects as well as our day-to-day maintenance and cleaning. So how do you deal with all of this and maintain your sanity? 

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The key is having a great staff that communicate with each other and maintain a positive attitude. My entire staff works long hours and are not only co-workers but have become family. They have learned to rise to the occasion, but, foremost, they have managed to work out all detail shifts and facility needs amongst themselves. In years past, we used to have an overtime shift list which has now gone by the wayside due to this new way of thinking and communication in which my staff works together. I’m not the most orthodox person and I like to think out of the box, so here are five secrets to my success.   

1: Get to know your people.  

Are they married? Do they have kids? What are their names? What are their skill sets? Do they have commitments after their shifts? What can they excel at and what do they not like doing? Once this is established, have them share this information with the group. By doing this, you have just leveled the playing field and helped to complete future staffing puzzles. I make a point of trying to spend at least five minutes a day checking in with each of my staff members. I start the day saying, "Good Morning,” before hearing status updates. Also, on Mondays I ask employees how their weekend was, or will ask later in the week if they have any plans for the weekend. I don’t, nor ever will, flaunt that I am their boss. We are co-workers — all here to do our jobs and get things done. 

2. Allow flexible shifts.  

Some people are early risers, others are night owls. I have created shifts that work for my people. This helps them to handle kids, doctor appointments and traffic. This has improved morale, reduced time off and has given me better shift coverage. I always have been a believer of giving people choices, asking questions, and not giving orders. By giving choices and asking questions it gives employees empowerment, ownership, accountability, as well as true loyalty.  

3: Avoid micromanaging. 

If you do micromanage, you are not doing yourself or your staff any favors and it’s time to look for a new job in, say, Alaska or Antarctica. Nobody appreciates or likes a micromanager. This is the most destructive thing a manager can do to decrease morale. Encourage staff to think outside of the box. Remember there are no real rules as to how a task is completed or how something gets fixed. However, if safety protocols are followed, then game on. As kind of a sidenote, not all staff have the same work ethic. My grandfather once told me to always hire at least one lazy guy, and that person will figure out the fastest and easiest way to do something.  

4. Improve communication.   

This is really the No. 1 suggestion or rule. Without this you are going nowhere. Be clear with employees about what is needed and come up with a plan. Stage, order, and acquire your materials and supplies before you begin, then discuss how the task will be carried out. Remember that poor preparation precludes poor performance. As a father of four children, I learned the value of being descriptive and clear. On a hot summer day when there was weeding to be done, my children, a 15-year-old girl, and three boys ages 11 and two 8-year-old twins, had their buckets and gloves. After a half-hour, one of the 8-year-old sons started to complain. So, as a father and professional facilities manager, I decided to have a job meeting. I told them that if they did three more buckets of weeds then we would be done. The same son walked over and picked the smallest weed and put it in a bucket. He then dumped his bucket. He did this two more times and said he was done. To my amazement, I questioned him, and he told me that I said three buckets — not full buckets. He won that one because I was neither clear nor descriptive, so shame on me. Communication is key. When I have staff meetings, they are under 20 minutes. Anything longer is a waste of time and focus is lost on the objective. 

5. Practice patience.  

This goes together with communication. Be patient and understanding. By giving your staff the power to advise you, you also give them the power to make mistakes or bad decisions that seemed right at the time. I feel there are no right or wrong decisions, but rather what is learned from it. The "A" for effort and the "F” for accomplishment is always better to me than nothing at all. Life lessons are learned, and hopefully history does not repeat itself. 

Remember, you're only as good as your people. We are all humans with different issues, needs and wants. Be honest with your employees, and always be human and compassionate. Keep your staff engaged. I have found that asking for forgiveness over permission with the higher-ups, usually when I get questions or yelled at, has made myself and my group tighter as a team, because they always know I’m there for them.  

Kris Byk is the director of operations at Watchung Hills Regional High School in New Jersey and is a recipient of a 2023 Facility Champion award.  

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  posted on 1/8/2024   Article Use Policy

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