Most of the time, low morale is the result of the absence of sufficient things that give workers job satisfaction. Thus, providing more of those things (within the power of the leadership) will generally boost morale. For individuals, this can often mean things like feeling valued, having their work acknowledged, getting promoted, getting salary increases. For an entire team, it generally means acknowledging the team’s issues and treating them well - perks, bonus pay, parties, etc.
The most effective way I’ve seen of turning bad morale around for an entire team is for the leadership to talk to the team, acknowledge the team’s concerns, solicit their genuine feedback, and do things visibly to address those concerns. Obviously, team leadership must operate under some number of constraints - the budget, the schedule, the technical requirements, the corporate policies beyond their control, etc. If the situation is bad, e.g. if decisions made by the leadership got the team into a bad place, the leadership should take responsibility for those bad decisions among the team. The leadership should also have a reasonable plan to get out of the bad place - one that can stand up to scrutiny and that the team can believe in. It also is important to recognize that the leadership is also putting their neck on the line as well - by taking responsibility for the problems, they’re also accepting the blame if things cannot turn around. It is very likely that further failure will result in leadership resignation.
The fastest way for morale to fall is to lose the trust of the workers. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. If it becomes obvious that the leadership’s actions don’t match their words, trust will erode and the morale will tank. It will also make it significantly more difficult to regain - after being burned by leadership, the team will likely be super wary and the publisher may need to stage an intervention by replacing the leadership completely due to the inability to regain lost trust.
[Join us on Discord] and/or [Support us on Patreon]
Got a burning question you want answered?
- Short questions: Ask a Game Dev on Twitter
- Long questions: Ask a Game Dev on Tumblr
- Frequent Questions: The FAQ