Low workplace morale costs businesses $350 billion dollars each year in lost productivity. Is your workplace suffering? Here’s how to turn things around.

Lack of cooperation, increased absenteeism, reduced personal initiative, an overall poor attitude: sounds like your team has been hit by a bad case of low morale! Low morale can have a serious impact on work performance and employee retention. An estimated 22 million employees are “actively disengaged” with their current positions, resulting in $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, including absenteeism, according to Gallup. It’s safe to say that for these folks, the honeymoon is over!

I know first hand how difficult it can be to sustain a positive work environment when team morale starts to crumble. Prior to joining Lucas Group, I managed a 20 person sales team. At any given time, there were five or more different projects in the works, each with a different potential commission based on the client. As you can imagine, having 20 different sales consultants all working in the same office with some making thousands more in commission checks than their coworkers made balancing morale a challenge. Some projects were only 12 weeks while others lasted for eight months. Managing the ebb and flow of these projects was like trying to sit on the beach but constantly having to reset your chair so you don’t get soaked by the tide!

If your team is suffering from a case of low morale, it’s never too late to turn things around before the tide of office opinions surges against you. Sure, handing out a big bonus would be an easy solution, but that’s not always financially possible nor is it practical to reward under-performance. Instead, I recommend these four strategies to boost team morale:

1. Recognize achievements. Morale sinks when a team leader fails to recognize hard work. In my previous job, I offered the same level of recognition for a team member’s work regardless of the job or commission size. When a member of your team meets or exceeds a work goal, congratulate her personally and publically. Public acknowledgement of success creates an environment where individuals feel their work is truly valued.

2. Support professional development. You don’t want to do the same thing every day for the rest of your life, and neither do your employees. Investing in your employees with professional development opportunities (industry conferences, webinars, expert training sessions, etc.) sends a powerful message that you believe in their potential. Plus, by building their skillsets, you can position your employees for internal promotional opportunities. Doing so inspires employees to work harder since they see that this hard work will eventually be rewarded.

3. Inspire positivity. No one shows up at the office smiling every day. But if you spend the majority of your days complaining about work deadlines, a difficult team member, or a supervisor you dislike, these constant complaints breed a toxic, negative environment. Who would want to take initiative on a new project if they’re just risking criticism? An optimistic outlook goes much further. You don’t have to be “Suzy Sunshine”, but by remaining positive even on tough days, you’ll inspire your team members to feel – and behave – the same.

4. Hold a contest. A little healthy competition on an even playing field goes a long way. At my previous job, rather than focusing on the differences that divided us (like disparate commissions), I organized contests around the tasks everyone engaged in each day, like sales calls and referrals. Sometimes these tasks can seem monotonous, especially when starting the day off with a long call sheet, but by turning these tasks into a fun competition, both performance and morale improved.

How do you inspire better team morale? I invite you to share your secrets for building team morale in the comments section below.