I think that of all the questions I am asked, this would be one of the most common.  People are worried that if their team or organisation sails into troubled waters, then their staff will necessarily become stressed, cynical, disaffected – in short, disengaged.

I understand why people are worried about this – after all, it happens quite often that when people either individually or in groups find themselves in difficulty – less resources, more pressure, periods of rapid change – morale declines.

A rapidly growing area of research that I have mentioned in previous blog posts is that of post traumatic growth.  This research shows that quite often (about 30% of the time has been indicated in a number of studies) people’s wellbeing actually increases when they have encountered significant challenges – even traumatic ones.

So, why is it that some people decline and some grow in tough times?  The answer is that the real determinant of people’s wellbeing is not the tough times, it is:

  • The behaviour of people around them
  • Whether they have the resources to manage the challenge

One reason morale declines in tough times in many organisations is that leaders start acting differently – worse – when times get tough. They often respond by adopting a more top down, dictatorial style of leadership and by focussing less on valuing their people.  This has a massive negative impact on people’s wellbeing as it also tends to change the behaviours of the colleagues around each person.

Secondly, organisations often forget that new circumstances require new skills among employees, and they assume that they will rise automatically to the task of handling the new challenges.

So, will the engagement of your staff decline if you sail into tough times?  No, not if you:

  • Cause them to be the solution – empower them
  • Treat them as though they are the solution – respect and value them
  • Enable them to be the solution – skill them up for the new challenges

If you would like to know more about how to do this, click here to find out about our Change Management Masterclass.


Andrew Marty
Managing Director

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Bakker, A.B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The Job Demands-Resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22, 309-328

Andrew Marty