It can creep up on you slowly. The general grumblings around the office get louder and more frequent, coworkers start calling in sick more often, maybe your managers crack down hard without sympathy, and before you know it your entire workplace is suffering from a case of the occupational blues. Low morale is a serious issue that can hurt productivity, create a rapid decline in overall cooperation, and most importantly, deeply trouble the individuals spending a significant amount of their time working in a situation that is emotionally unhealthy.
There are many different reasons an office morale problem can arise. What’s important is that you do everything you can to avoid getting bogged down by it. How you do this will depend a great deal on your specific situation, but here are a few tips for getting started:
1. Identify the Issue
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one. Morale issues don’t come out of thin air — something happened to create the unpleasant ripple effect felt throughout the office. Take some time to consider what is actually going on. How does it affect you? Can you do anything to improve the situation overall? Even if you’re not directly involved or have no power to change the mood around the watercooler, identifying the issue can help you to work around it.
If you do see a way you can create some positive change, take the initiative to rally the team. If not, your options are to mitigate the circumstances in your current role the best that you can or move on.
2. Change Your Perspective
If you decide to stick it out during a period of low morale, you can’t live in misery. Shifting toward a more positive perspective can take time, especially if you’re directly affected by the issue weighing down the team. But the ability to observe the issue rationally will help you to move forward and continue your day-to-day tasks with as little stress as possible.
How can one feel better about a negative situation if it hasn’t improved? This depends on what exactly is at the root of the issue. In any case, the best way to combat those blues is to start small. Instead of considering all the ways things are causing you and your team suffer, exist in the present moment at work and take on each day one task at a time. Try to find small joys in the office — a meditation break, lunchtime stroll, afternoon treat, or anything that gives you a moment to check in with yourself and boost your mood. Remember, perception is reality. If you can’t change the external cause of your grief and can’t leave the situation, changing your perspective is the best way to find some relief.
3. Avoid Gossip
Although it may make you feel better to vent with people going through these issues with you, complaining can breed resentment and tends to make matters worse overall. Words can be misinterpreted or even used against you, and at the very least time spent gossiping is time spent not working, which isn’t great for your reputation.
If you have issues to address, vocalize them with your manager. Talking to a coworker might relieve some immediate frustration, but ultimately all they can do is echo your concerns. Work to cultivate positive change instead of dwelling on the problems at hand.
4. Leave It at Work
Your job is a huge part of your life, but it shouldn’t be your entire life. A work/life balance is always important, but especially when the office vibes are bringing you down. Talking to friends and loved ones about your stress and options is an understandable way to deal with the circumstances, but try to keep in mind that it’s just work. Deal with it however you need to between 9 and 5, then go home and relax. It may be difficult to put the issues affecting you out of your mind, but taking time to relax and remember what you enjoy is crucial to coming into the office refreshed and ready to deal with whatever the next day brings.