How Not to Build Employee Morale

There are many effective techniques for team building that produce positive sustainable results.  Managers should use judgement in selcting exercises that may in the long term jeopardize the health of the organization and are clearly on the surface inappropriate.

There are many effective techniques for team building that produce positive sustainable results. Managers should use judgement in selecting exercises that may in the long term jeopardize the health of the organization and are clearly on the surface inappropriate.

Strengthening staff morale is difficult at the best of times; however, during a recession it is exponentially more challenging.   Employees are terrified that their positions may disappear.  Others are frustrated by the loss of promotions and bonuses.  Employers are under pressure to maintain production with fewer employees.  Clearly,  a good time is not being had by all.

So, considering the difficulty of the challenge, there is no better time than now for managers to securely affix their thinking caps and invent new and better ways of keeping employees motivated and committed.

Ben Leach at the Telegraph.co.uk reports on a very innovative approach to morale building.  On the advice of a business psychologist, a marketing and design company in the UK decided to work in the nude for a day.   (That’s right, in the nude.  Yes. I am shaking my head in dismay).  The psychologist, who long had this tool in his repertoire, considered it the most powerful team-building tool he could recommend.   Going nude for a day would be the optimal “stretch” for employees, making the shedding of inhibitions a walk in the park by comparison.  The end result was that colleagues and bosses  would communicate more openly and honestly.

A skeptic might coach me to “wake up” and acknowledge the obvious.  This ploy had little to do with motivating employess and everything to do with marketing a small marketing firm looking to increase market share.  The CEO might suggest to employees that  in difficult times employees must be prepared to “stick their necks out”, “take one for the old gipper”.   Bottom line: if we can attract publicity doing something outrageous, companies will be curious about other breakthrough marketing concepts we may have in our bag of tricks. Our jobs will be protected, our company will grow.

Whether this is true or not, it is important to set the record straight.  Certain things are acceptable in the workplace and others are not.

  1. What is the world coming to?: Surely there is a standard of behaviour that we need to model for other co-workers and for our children.  Rather than lowering ourselves to our animal instincts, perhaps we should be aspiring to a higher level of morality.  Morality is a spiritual and emotional experience:  There are many tools and experiences that support our commitment to one another.  For example, there are many trust exercises that allow us to focus on the emotional experience.
  2. Will this truly produce the desired result?: For some employees, this technique will probably lower inhibitions and they will function better in the workplace.   And I applaud all participants  for their courage; this experience was a huge stretch for all.  Although participants acknowledge short term benefit, they are still clearly in the honeymoon phase of this experiment.  A second set employees will he exercise.  They may feel isolated in the workplace; they may feel embarrassed; they may react with conflict masking the cause as something else.
  3. Let’s not pretend that this is not a sexual experience: This experiment may in the final analysis destroy the business in question.  Sexuality has nothing to do with morale; however, in this case, it may raise many issues for employees.  It could lead to certain employees no longer feeling comfortable around certain other employees.  It may lead to attraction to another employee. Or to sexual relations between employees and broken marriages.  This exercise is a huge risk and the cost benefit will only be measured in the long term.

Let me know what you think.  Would you participate in a team building exercise of this nature?  What exercises have you enjoyed that have produced lasting results?

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