Morale can be more of an art than a science. Moods, especially in group situations, hinge on many factors including how other members of a team or group are doing. Often staff are guarded with management and it can be tricky for a manager to get his finger on the pulse of morale. But it certainly isn't impossible and with a little savvy and the right approach, you can get a handle on the mood of the day.
Sometimes the best way to gauge morale is the simplest. Taking aside a few people for one-on-one private conversations can get them to open up and share what's going on around the office. When doing so, it's important to create a safe environment where they feel their thoughts and comments will be well received and their confidences kept.
It may also help to explain that the purpose of the conversation is to help you as a manager get a feel for how you can do your job better in supporting the team.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys
Many companies conduct periodic employee satisfaction surveys. Surveys give a structured, anonymous way for employees to express how they're doing. In addition, it gives managers a way to ask questions without putting anyone on the spot.
For employee satisfaction surveys to be effective, employees have to be confident that there will be no repercussions to their responses and that management is simply trying to be as effective as possible.
Productivity And Absenteeism
Sometimes, you need go no further than reviewing productivity and absentee reports. Happy people come to work. And happy people tend to be more productive in their days. When things are going right, there's a good chance morale is up.
By the same turn, if people aren't showing up and aren't working to their potential when they are in the office, then you know you have work to do.
Eric Feigenbaum started his career in print journalism, becoming editor-in-chief of "The Daily" of the University of Washington during college and afterward working at two major newspapers. He later did many print and Web projects including re-brandings for major companies and catalog production.