“I got a written warning for being late again.” My coworker and I were packing up to leave, and I’d just asked her how her day had been.
“Also, they told me my clients have been complaining,” she continued, shaking her head and shoving her things into her bag. “Apparently I ‘sigh’ and ‘seem tired and distracted’ during appointments. People say it’s like I don’t care. No one is happy with me right now, so if I’m not here next week, you’ll know I got fired!”
She laughed and shrugged, her eyes filling with tears. “I just need a break...”
Want to know the Word of the Day? It’s "Discouragement".
Discouragement is defined as, “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.”
Discouragement drains energy, drags on morale, decreases accuracy and sabotages results. Discouragement is your enemy, and you want to help your employees to avoid it.
From now on, you’re going to make it your mission to be encouraging for each person there. You’re going to give support, hope, positivity, and confidence, and when I asked around for ideas about how you can do this, I was given so many great ones!
Here’s what you’ll do to encourage each of your employees:
BE GRATEFUL AND SHOW IT
“Seeing the results of our work and understanding the impact we have on people or the world can make us proud of what we do and improve performance.” - Mary Yakovets, Freelance Editor
We all want to know we’re appreciated, and we want to know that the things we’re putting effort into are important to other people. We crave that at work. You do too, and no matter how much you’re already giving appreciation to your employees, be even more purposeful about it now.
Celebrate the things that went well, and make a big deal about the things you want everyone to do again. When customers leave a great review, make sure your employees hear about it. Notice each person’s strengths, and point those out. Let each employee know how his/her performance positively impacts you in your role, and tell them how happy you are that you get to work with them. Help them see how they help each other.Just a few weeks ago, one of my coworkers was leaving, and as he passed by my desk he said, “Hey Joan, thank you for all the work you do to make sure we get paid.” Sometimes we all just need a reminder that we’re doing good things, you know? I’d been languishing over a list of stuff I was trying to complete before the weekend, and that one sentence gave me an instant lift.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if everyone in your company encouraged each other that way? You can help them all start by setting an example yourself. Notice all the good they do and don’t let a day go by without expressing your heartfelt gratitude.
SUPPORT THEIR GOALS
“[The] best way I have seen to help employees avoid workplace discouragement is by helping them achieve their career and [personal] goals. If you don’t have their career goals in mind, then you’ll create a revolving door. Same thing with [personal] goals; if family or personal needs aren’t met, then you’ll never have an effective and loyal employee… [and] your employees are your foundation.” - Joseph Rosa, Chief Pilot / Co-Owner of ERA Marketing
Yes, this one can seem scary. What if your top employee’s goal is to start his/her own company, or get some self-discovery with a year-long wilderness retreat, or finally break into the music scene? What if the achievement of your employees’ goals means they’ll stop working for you?You’ll swallow your fear, you’ll remember what your parents (hopefully) did for you, and you’ll support your flock, even as some prepare to leave the nest. And you’ll be able to do that because you’ll know a secret that a lot of your competitors don’t:
Your employees are dreaming about all those things anyway, and embracing the truth will give you a huge advantage!
While your competitors are harping on their employees’ sales and performance goals, you’ll give attention to your employees’ personal goals and it will keep their motivation, engagement, and happiness on high.
How would you feel about a person who took an interest in your deepest dreams, and gave you their support while you pursued them? How would you approach your work if you knew that even on the worst days, it was helping you to achieve something so important and meaningful to you? This is such a powerful way to encourage your employees, I want to put stars around it.
CARE FOR THEM
You can care for the company’s interest at the same time you care for your employees’, and there are so many ways to do it.
“Maintain an open door. Sometimes we have problems that need to be addressed. Sometimes we just need an ear or someone to give feedback on an idea. Sometimes just knowing that you are easily accessible if we need something is all it takes to soothe jangled nerves.
“[And] be flexible and understanding. Life happens. Kids get sick, employees get sick, family members die. Water heaters explode, basements leak and tires go flat. Unless it’s happening on a regular basis and affects long-term performance, reassure us and wish us a speedy recovery from whatever malady has befallen.” - Mary Yakovets, Freelance Editor
Help your employees to care for themselves. Help them look out for themselves and their own happiness, so they can keep their energy up and avoid burnout. Encourage time off, encourage their hobbies, and encourage them to put work out of their mind once they leave for the day.
Watch for signs that someone is struggling, and offer support. If an employee is suddenly coming in late, doing the bare minimum, being less social and seeming out-of-sorts, ask if they’re okay and if there’s anything you can do to help.
Get to know each of them. You won’t be able to help but care, as you learn more about each of their circumstances, experiences, hopes, and challenges. You won’t only give your employees confidence and encouragement; you’ll be so encouraged yourself, as you come to work at a place full of people you know and care about. It’s so nice how that works!
BELIEVE IN THEM
This can be hard, I know. Your results and reputation are on the line, and the pressure can feel overwhelming, but try this one anyway. Have confidence in the people who work for you. They have different experiences and strengths than you, and that’s good. They wouldn’t do everything exactly the same way you do, and that’s good too. So trust in their decisions.
Try to focus more on results and less on the way they’re accomplished by telling everyone what the goals are and letting them achieve those in their own way (as long as they’re working safely, and following company and industry standards).
Ask for their ideas and invite their feedback. Tell them about your goals for the company, and ask them how they think you all can accomplish them. Ask for their thoughts on how you all can solve challenges.
“Have our backs! Sometimes clients and customers exaggerate or make wild claims when they are frustrated. You hired us because we are good, solid, honest professionals. Believe us and in us.” - Mary Yakovets, Freelance Editor
Imagine taking a risk, solving a problem, or facing a challenge, and knowing that you had someone who was cheering you on the whole time. I really believe that we make ourselves into who we think we are, and you want your employees to feel that they’re good, capable, trustworthy and valuable. Believe that about them yourself, and show them.
SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS
“Give us what we need to perform our jobs! This can’t be stressed enough. We shouldn’t be expected to bring in our own office supplies. It’s impossible to work when the internet or phone service is constantly on the fritz. If you are constantly calling an employee on their personal cell phone, you need to issue a company phone.” - Mary Yakovets, Freelance Editor
Generally speaking, we want to do well. We want to be good at what we do, be respected for our efforts and abilities, and be able to take pride in our work. Your employees want that too! So make sure each person has all the resources he/she needs. Maybe it’s reliable equipment, or plenty of supplies, or written instructions, or enough training, or more authority to make decisions while completing tasks.
There’s another thing to consider with this, and it’s that we don’t all work at our best under the exact same conditions. Some of us need a little more flexibility. Some of us need structure and organization. Some need variety. Or to feel challenged, or to be independent. Figuring these out and finding ways to give them will make you a fantastic leader, and will help everyone to stay motivated and perform at their best.
Everything else we’ve gone over so far will help you with this one, and as Dawn Moss, Founder of Your Interview Coach points out:
“Good managers will get to know their teams and build strong relationships. It’s all about being a good role model… People are motivated and demotivated by different factors, and considering we work in diverse organizations, it’s important to get to know the individual.”
HELP THEM GET PAST MISTAKES
“The times that I felt the most discouragement in a job were when I was stumbling through the process of learning a new role. But when my boss allowed me to come up with solutions for problems I accidentally caused, it helped me to not only get over the embarrassment and frustration with myself but also made me feel more invested in a positive outcome. Instead of just backing away with my hands in the air and waiting for him to fix my mess, I was able to propose solutions and then move forward with them. It made me feel empowered (and as a result, less discouraged) while getting through the learning curve.” - Brooke Bundy, Interior Decorator at Brooke Bundy Designs
Be patient and understanding when mistakes happen. You’re under a lot of pressure, you’re responsible for your employees’ results, and it can be hard to keep things in perspective when a mistake happens. But they do happen. We’re all just people, after all.
So when they do, help your employees to move on. Follow the great example Brooke’s boss set, and let them give their ideas for solutions. Encourage them to relax and enjoy their next day off, to keep their energy up. And once the moment has passed, let it stay in the past.
One of the most painful mistakes I made at work was when I completely messed up the payroll one week. I wanted to fire myself and move away, but my boss said simply, “Joanie, it happens. It can be fixed, and it’ll be okay.”
The next day he treated me with just as much confidence as he had before. He didn’t seem worried about it, and that made it so much easier to brush off my pride and get back to work.
If you distrust your employees after they make mistakes, they will become discouraged instead of keeping things in perspective and forgiving themselves when they drop the ball.
HELP THEM USE THEIR STRENGTHS
“Understand your employees’ strengths. When you know where your employees shine, and you allow them to work in their strength areas, you’re not only doing the right thing by your team members; your business will be better off, too.
In the past, there’s been a huge focus on helping teams to improve their weaknesses, but coaching on, and developing their strengths can actually create an improvement in overall performance, along with greater employee engagement. Your team members want to know they’re doing a good job; when they’re working in their area of expertise, they feel more satisfied at work because they’re making a more significant contribution.” - Bec McFarland, Career Coach at Pop Your Career
I love writing, and I don’t really like math. In one of my past jobs, my main responsibility was for the accounting side of things. Over time I got a lot better and more comfortable, and I was proud of myself for improving so much in an area that had never been my strength, but it wasn’t ever something I felt truly confident about.
After a while, I asked my boss if I could write some policies and procedures for the company during any downtime. He could have told me to stick to my scope and go back to the books, but instead, he agreed.
Getting to write lit a fire under me. I felt so excited and proud of what I was doing to help, and I got better in every area of my position because of it. I’ve always felt so grateful to my boss for giving me the opportunity to use my strength, and I know it made me a better employee.
HELP THEM MANAGE THEIR WORKLOAD
Would you enjoy climbing up a sandpit that collapsed under you every time you started to make progress? Or using a vacuum that spits out everything you’d just gone over? Or running on a treadmill to get to the bathroom?
Nope! And according to Dawn Moss (Your Interview Coach),
A workload [that is] unmanageable or unrealistic, [or] conflicting deadlines and difficulty prioritizing can be very discouraging for employees.
You don’t want that, so do what you can to make employees’ work manageable. Make sure they aren’t overwhelmed. It’s easy to miss this when you’re trying to get a lot of things done, but if you’ve got employees wearing too many hats or being shoveled more work than any person can reasonably complete on time, they’ll most likely get discouraged and give up.
Make sure you delegate things fairly and give employees the option to delegate when possible. Check-in with them regularly to see how they’re feeling about their workload and help them prioritize responsibilities.
When I have thirty things to do and no idea about which one should come first, the “overwhelmed feeling” usually overrides my thought process and makes me think that cleaning out the spam in my inbox is productive. Make sure your employees aren’t stuck in that scenario, by letting them know which tasks are most important so they can move forward with confidence.
One of my past bosses made a list of my responsibilities and showed me which ones needed to be done daily, which ones could be saved for once-a-week, and which could even be once-a-month. I felt like a mountain had been lifted from my desk, and it immediately improved my output and my sanity.
“Discouragement is like that bite of chicken that is actually fish: the second you realize it's not what you were expecting, it doesn't matter what it actually is, or whether you liked it in the past - you won’t be happy about it.
“In the workplace, discouragement can come from many sources, but one area a company can control for its employees, is effectively managing expectations. From Day One [employees] have a vision of what this experience should be. Every time reality differs from expectations, they feel like they were just fed a hardy bite of mushy catfish when they were expecting grilled chicken.
“Don't inflate [On-target Earnings], and don’t pretend you're something you're not as a company. Be optimistic, sure, but it’s imperative to operate with absolute transparency, even during the recruiting conversation. [Do that and] you'll attract and retain people who are there because they want to be.
“I think operating in an environment of congruence, where expectations have been effectively managed, creates an excuse-free environment. When actual experience matches expectations, employees won’t blame the company for challenges, and there will be a general sense of optimism and direction - nearly the opposite of discouragement.” - Weston Hadlock, Enterprise Account Executive, Divvy, Inc.
If I told you at the beginning of this article that it would give you “a few quick” tips for helping your employees to avoid discouragement, and you scrolled down and counted ten, would you have gotten discouraged and decided it was way more reading than you were prepared for?
No matter what you answered for that, trust Weston on this one and make sure you don’t set people up for disappointment.
COMMUNICATE WITH THEM
“Employees who don’t get the opportunity to give or receive adequate communication are more likely to be discouraged and lose motivation.
“I think that with adequate and thoughtful input from management, and management that gives the employees time to share their experience and thoughts, [employees] are much more likely to avoid discouragement, even if things don’t work out the way they want them to.” - Natalie Barrett, Assistant Laboratory Manager/ Laboratory Quality Assurance Officer
I can count at least ten instances this week where poor communication led to a misunderstanding, and it all involved me in some way. You do not want a breakdown in communication between you and your employees to cause confusion, frustration or hurt feelings, because it all leads to discouragement and it’s all bad for you too.
Have you ever been a customer waiting for an answer from a company you contacted, and in the following silence your brain goes crazy with assumptions? They must not care; you’re not important to them at all. You can just see how they hung up the phone and walked out of your life forever. Think about how that feels, and don’t let your employees feel that way. Write that “communication is key” saying on a post-it and stick it to your bathroom mirror, and then do everything you can to make your communication with your employees clear, positive, effective and frequent.
Give feedback regularly, and ask for theirs. Keep everyone in the loop, so that as things evolve, update or change, they’re all aware and ready. Clearly state your goals and objectives, so no one has to guess your expectations. Give complete instructions and information. Tell everyone how much you appreciate them instead of storing it all in your heart.
Want to know a secret? Just recently I was feeling really discouraged in my new job. I just started working again in an industry I’d been away from for years. I hoped it’d be like that riding-a-bike saying and that I’d be able to get back into the groove of things quickly, but a couple of weeks in, I felt deflated. I just didn’t feel like I was good at this anymore, and I wondered if I’d made the right choice in taking the job.
One afternoon not long ago, my boss stopped on his way out and said, “Joan, I really appreciate everything you’re doing,” and he explained how my work was helping him with his. Not to sound sappy or anything, but you know how sometimes a simple thing like that can make such a difference? It felt like being snapped out of a train of thought I was stuck in, and I had so much more energy. I thought back on it later that day, and I thought about all the friends and coworkers I’ve had who have felt the way I did, and I decided I really wanted to write this for you.
Discouragement is your enemy, but you can fight it. You can give your employees support, hope, positivity, and confidence, and they’ll reward all of your efforts with their performance.
Joanie is a part-time employee with a mission to end the Sunday Night Blues and start a new way of working. She uses what she’s learned from her experience to help employees have happiness, fulfillment, and high-performance in their jobs, with a revolutionary approach to goal achievement. Learn more at: useyourjob.com/about
Her latest book, As Its People: A 90-Day Challenge, is for employers, managers, team leaders, and HR professionals, and gives actions, strategies, and habits for having motivated, engaged and high-performing employees. It’s available in paperback and Kindle at: www.amazon.com/author/joanelmore