Keeping employee morale up in a government job

Goodwill on two wheels

When you are in government supervision, what you pay isn’t negotiable, and cash bonuses for good work isn’t allowed.

City Councils, County Commissioners, State Legislatures are setting your salary and benefits, and usually money isn’t flowing towards the employees.

You can’t pay extra cash, so what can a boss do in this environment to keep employees happy?

I think the first thing is to have your people know that their bosses care, say “thank you” -it’s a great way to build someone up, and it doesn’t cost you a dime. People like to feel appreciated, never thank your guys, and watch them stop trying. Small, regular doses of positive feedback go a long way.

Show appreciation of your employees all the time, and recognize them officially when they earn it. Letters of commendation or or letters of recognition make a person feel good and reinforces the positive actions they do. Reward good behavior and you are likely to get more good behavior – ignore it, and it will likely dry up. I firmly believe that several ‘good letters’ are better that a yearly award ceremony, and it’s a better way to include all your people.

Another major issue I’ve learned, when a problem arises, fix it. Show your guys you aren’t going to try to advocate for them, or not help them with issues that clearly need addressing, and you will loose their respect. If your folks don’t respect you, or the organization, a poor attitude is inevitable.

Your employees have a lot to say, so listen and act when you can, its simple, but it’s if effective, and often, you might learn something.

Offer training opportunities and help your employees reach goals. For instance, in law enforcement or a jail setting, get them into classes to teach them how to train new hires. Field trainers or jail trainers are invaluable to your organization, and these positions can help build self esteem for the individual employee.

Don’t bully, and don’t allow bullying in your organization. There is no place for this in the workplace.

Ever work for a boss who put in the minimum, and expected the max out of you? Lead by example, and be consistent.

Allow some freedom when it promotes positive attitudes. My favorite thing to do as a sergeant was to have a group feed. We would bring food on Sundays, or have someone bring a grill, and everyone would pitch it and we would eat. Way back when I was on patrol, we would eat watermelon in the parking lot around break time.

One of my Lieutenants and his supervisory staff hosted a cookout just today; they took a grill to the jail and all the supervisors pitched in so the shift could have hamburgers. Everyone still did their assigned jobs, nothing was sacrificed, and the goodwill out of something like that can’t be underestimated.

You can’t run anything without good employees, appreciate them, and show them that they are appreciated.

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