Assess Morale: Know When “They” Aren’t Happy

Eggs with a grimace emoji painted on it. Assess Morale: Know When "They" Aren't Happy

The gorillas are the emotional barometer in a zoo.

I learned this recently from a leader at an engineering design firm.  He was talking about a project he led inside a zoo; construction would stop and start based on the gorillas’ moods.  If the gorillas were happy, the construction would commence.  If the gorillas weren’t happy, it was a sign that other animals were stressed and construction would have to be delayed.

One thing I love about animals (and infants!) is that their feelings are pretty transparent.  Human adults?  Not so much.  

We all can put on wonderful acts, or masks, and dance around uncomfortable truths when we’re feeling less than our best. 

As leaders, whether on the job or in our own homes, it’s important to assess climate … always.  Moreover, how people feel impacts their productivity, performance, and relationships – all things too important to success to ignore.

When I served in the Marines, I was told all the time that it’s critical to assess morale.  We were encouraged constantly to go to where the work was being done and have face-to-face conversations around the simple question: “How’s morale?”  That’s a pretty direct approach, which often yielded great results. Consequently, in these exchanges, I’d get real answers, that often came with recommendations and potential solutions on what to do about it.  

Three Ways to Assess Morale

Here are some other ways to assess the climate that you work in and around:

Assess Communication. 

How do people greet and engage others in meetings?  Are they friendly, or are they quick in conversations and seem to want to “tap out” during get-togethers?  Quick, short communications can be a sign that relationships are less than best.

Monitor Projects and Deadlines. 

How does work “look” when it’s completed – thorough and conscientiously completed, or a check in the box?  What about deadlines? Are they minded, or casually observed?  Happy people perform at their best.  If work products are produced like afterthoughts, that could be an indicator of an unhappy team.

Evaluate Workspaces. 

Are things clean, organized, and orderly?  Or, does it look like a small bomb went off in both private and shared spaces? Do people pick up after themselves in conference rooms, or do they leave their items for someone else to pick up?  When people care about one another and their space, they literally care for it!    

Happy work environments are productive, safe, and effective work environments.  While happiness is – ultimately – an inside job, there are plenty of things to do to influence it – the best approach is to start by asking your team this simple question: What can we do to make things better around here?  You may find yourself delighted that their recommendations and suggestions are actually things you can, in fact, influence.


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