The dictionary defines a "funk" as a low or depressed mood, and that certainly matches the mindset at millions of small companies nationwide. Sure, government statisticians have declared the recession officially over. Feel better now?
Not likely. Employees these days are feeling overworked, under-appreciated, and skeptical. And despite the hopeful talk of recovery, they remain anxious, distrustful, and worst of all, disengaged.
So why should it matter how your employees feel, as long as they show up and do their jobs? The answer is productivity. Research from Gallup estimates that disengaged employees are costing their companies big bucks -- as much as one out of every three dollars you spend on payroll.
Think about what's happening at your business. Are you throwing away a third of your entire payroll due to simple negativity? And whether that funk has descended recently or has been there all along, you need to face it and change it.
Here's what happened, says employee motivation guru Jon Gordon. For years, small business owners and managers were focused on the numbers, and the numbers were good. So morale was up and everyone was happy. "But then the recession hit and the numbers went down," says Gordon, who advises major corporations on building a more positive company culture. "Well, when you're focused on numbers and they're going down, morale also goes down. So does engagement and so does performance."
Bottom line: That workplace funk could be sapping your cash flow at a time when every penny still counts.
To right the ship, you need to change your leadership focus. The new focus, explains Gordon, should be on culture. It should be on purpose and morale and loyalty. And all of that boils down to two words: engaged relationships.
Here are three rules to follow:
Positive communication kills negativity: Recovery or no recovery, these are uncertain times. Employees are wondering what's going to happen next, whether their jobs will be impacted, and what action to take. That uncertainty creates a void. Unless you fill the void with clear, positive information, people will assume the worst. Negativity will dominate everyone's thoughts and actions.
"The number one thing a manager can do during times of uncertainty is to communicate with transparency, authenticity, and clarity," says Gordon. Even when the news is not so positive, you can communicate it positively: Tell the truth, give everyone a plan, and help them believe.
Employees need nourishment to thrive. Most employees just want to know this: Do you care about me; can I trust you? If your answer is yes, your employees will be more likely to become contributors to your success. Employees who feel cared for and nourished are more engaged in what they're doing and will work to their highest potential. "Learn to view your employees like family," says Gordon. "This will change the way you treat them."
Workplace relationships count: Avoid appearing constantly stressed and overworked. With projects to complete, to-do lists to accomplish, goals to hit and outcomes to achieve, business owners and managers sometimes throw employees under the bus as they rush toward the next deadline.
"In times of busyness and stress, the brain goes into survival mode, and we stop thinking about serving other people, mentoring them, and helping them thrive," says Gordon. "This is where we drop the ball. Just when we need to be the most engaging, we become the least engaging. What our employees need the most, we're delivering the least. And so the problems grow and multiply."
Remember that it's not the numbers that drive people, but people and relationships that drive numbers.