We’ve made it to the middle of November and staff in almost all schools are feeling exhausted and running on reserves. Staff morale is important and has a massive impact on school effectiveness.
We all know that saying or doing something “dumb” at this time of the year, wipes out all of the good work that we have done throughout the year. That’s why we always republish the FINISH STRONG Happy School article at this time of the year.
Leadership is the number 1 factor that impacts on staff morale.
Staff don’t care how busy YOU are…they care about how busy THEY are!
Here are FIVE tips for boosting staff morale as a leader.
The fastest way to improve staff morale is to find out what annoys staff, FIX what you can and acknowledge that you have heard the other issues that can not be immediately addressed.
However, I would NOT advocate conducting a survey of staff at this time of the year. Staff are exhausted, their tolerance levels may be low and adding ANOTHER task to their TO DO list (completing the survey) is more likely to ADD to their stress than reduce it. Instead, be super sensitive to the expectations placed on staff and the additional requests that school leaders make. How can you streamline the process, make their lives easier?
Increase your visibility, especially at peak times. Whilst I know that you are busy and have lots to do, it is vitally important NOT to lock yourself away in your office ALL day. Strategically allocate specific time each day to be available and visible eg at your office – door open for the hour before school starts, drop in to the staffroom at lunch time at least every second day, walk through the playground at play time on the other days, spend 10 minutes at the school gate at pick up time. Being available and visible gives staff the opportunity to raise any concerns and shows your support.
Cut them some slack – look for opportunities to reduce the load, do you HAVE to have a meeting or that PD session this week? Have you prioritized and is your communication succinct? Streamline and cut non-essential tasks wherever possible. Providing a short, collated TO DO list of deadlines can help staff stay on top of competing demands.
Say thank you and provide specific positive recognition to individuals. A few positive words of encouragement from leaders can have a dramatic affect. However, be aware that according to Chapman and White, there are 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.
Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service (could you cover someone’s duty if they are looking exhausted?) and small gifts (the thoughtful act of taking someone a coffee) are probably the most likely to have an impact at this time of the year.
Your ATTITUDE is contagious – make sure it is worth catching! Even if you are feeling exhausted it is important that we are upbeat and positive. Our staff need us to be supportive and optimistic, especially at this time of the year. Think “calm swan on the surface of the water, even if your feet are paddling like crazy underneath!”