Morale - 18 January 2011
Two decades years ago, roughly 60 per cent of people sat down for family dinners. Today, it’s only about 20 per cent. Initially, you might look at that statistic and think, so what?
Well, researchers at Columbia University discovered that teenagers having dinner with their family five times a week were 42 per cent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 per cent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 per cent less likely to try marijuana. They were even 40 per cent more likely to get As and Bs at school. Studies at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, and many others, have come to the same conclusion.
When people think of the word ‘morale’, they often associate it with the workplace, the sports ground, or the battlefield. But morale is prevalent anywhere a group is formed, whether it be in a bar with friends or at home with family. Yet as our lives get busier and busier, we no longer have time for frequent meals with our closest relatives. As a result, for a lot of us, we miss out on five opportunities that appear around a dining table.
- The opportunity for connection: building relationships and bonds
- The opportunity for support: being there and being present (two different things)
- The opportunity for love: expressions of gratitude and compliments
- The opportunity for culture: experiencing historical significance
- The opportunity for influence: a chance to positively change someone
As the rate of family dinners diminish, so too does the morale that creates solidarity and ideal behavioural norms. The same principle plays out in the workplace. Managers are getting busier and busier with little time left over to boost morale, which means that those same five opportunities are dwindled away.
Low morale isn’t fixed by childish games, or jokes via email, or team building activities. Low morale is nothing more than a symptom to let you know that one or more of the five opportunities mentioned above are missing. The challenge, then, is to find out those that are lacking, and make time for them.
‘But there is no time’, I hear you roar. And therein lies the dilemma.
If you’re a frontline manager, make the time. The most useful model I’ve ever encountered in regards to prioritising time effectively has been from Dr Stephen Covey. More information on the model can be viewed here.
If you’re a senior manager, recognise the importance of this stuff for your employees. The more you overload your team leaders with operational work that distracts them from team leading, low morale will continue to stubbornly persist.
As the old adage goes: if nothing changes, nothing changes.
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