All Articles Leadership Management What can you do to keep morale high during a rough patch?

What can you do to keep morale high during a rough patch?

11 entrepreneurs offer advice on what to say (and not say) when times are tough

5 min read



The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

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Q. What can you do as a leader to keep morale high when your business is enduring a rough patch? (Conversely, what should you not do?)

1. Address any negative rumors

Keep your team focused on what is going right and any wins that occur no matter how small, rather than letting negative talk take over. Be sure to continually mention those positive things that you are working toward. Also, if you know there are negative rumors circulating, immediately address them and turn them around so that they don’t slow the team down. — Peter Daisyme, Due

2. Keep your own morale high

It can be tempting to wear your sentiments on your sleeve when your business is weathering a storm. As a leader though, your employees expect you to have the “ultimate vision” and certainly the fortitude to make it through the inevitable rough patches that arise in business. Want to keep their morale high? Keep your own morale high. Your attitude will be mirrored by those looking up to you. — Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard

3. Maintain transparency

We hold quarterly KPI meetings where we discuss the current state of the company. These are great times to let the team know where you see the company going and what efforts you’re putting in place to get the company there. We’ve always seen a lot of excitement and resurgence of energy from these. — John Hall, Influence & Co.

4. Keep the focus on goals instead of shortcomings

Every business has a rough patch. It’s important to learn from these situations. Instead of focusing on shortcomings, we focus on our strategic initiatives to ensure everything we do ties into one or more strategies. And by leaning on continual improvement as a cornerstone to growth, you can keep morale higher because your employees can see the effect that positive change makes on a business. — Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

5. Make sure to recognize accomplishments

Hard times are usually hard on the confidence of the people in your business. Even when times are tough, Make sure that you give people’s accomplishments the attention they deserve. Don’t allow a gloomy atmosphere. Instead, focus on how well everyone is keeping things together. — Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

6. Be transparent and acknowledge the problem

First, don’t ignore or turn a blind eye to the problem at hand or refuse to acknowledge one exists. Being transparent with employees goes far. Offer them a detailed plan for enduring the rough patch with weekly progress updates. Your team wants to see what is being done to make things better. Being transparent with them allows them to feel more confident about the path forward. — Zev Herman, Superior Lighting

7. Develop an action plan

Gather the team together to let them know what is going on, then have a brainstorming session to identify potential causes of the problem and more importantly, discuss potential solutions. Develop an action plan and execute it as best as possible while letting everyone know what is going on with regular updates. Remain positive and upbeat, but maintain realistic expectations. — Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc

8. See things for how they are

One of the keys to strong leadership during difficult times is to be able to see things for what they are – not worse than they are. Overreacting to an event that has already occurred magnifies the detrimental impact it has on morale. That’s why it’s important to put things in perspective and not amplify a situation that already presents a great challenge for your team. — Kristopher Jones,

9. Reinforce the mission

When the going gets rough, great leaders place extra emphasis on the company’s mission and purpose. Results come and go, and rough patches are always around the next corner. Your mission and purpose does not change. No one can take that from you or your team. Turn the focus away from the obvious lack of results and inspire your team to continue living out your mission. — Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Doorbell

10. Speak frankly but positively

Your employees will look at you for answers. You have the capability to steer the situation in any way you choose and speaking openly about the problem but staying positive will be critical for keeping your team behind you. If your morale is low, your employees will sense it and will act accordingly. You have to realize that despite the circumstances, you are still commanding the ship. — Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors LLC

11. Don’t panic

The worst thing you can do is overreact. Avoid asking your team to operate with urgency as that can quickly drain morale. Instead, continue to create a work atmosphere that appreciates their efforts and one that also respects their personal time. Do not force workers to stay late at the office and work overtime. Limit your asks for staff to work weekends. Treat them fairly and they’ll reciprocate. — Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep