Design Management: Are You Sucking the Life out of Morale?

Managing creatives has never been easy, and given today’s business climate, the job as a designer and manager can be even more challenging. Many companies are feeling increased pressure to do more with less. How do you keep your employees inspired as workloads rise and resources remain limited?

In the design management role, your attitude and interactions with employees can have a major impact on morale. Following are five common pitfalls supervisors make along with tips for avoiding them:

  1. They Assume Employees are Lucky to Have a Job.
    While many people today may feel fortunate to have a stable position, keep in mind that your most talented employees always have options. And as the job market picks up, they may begin to explore opportunities outside of your organization. Instead of adopting a “you’re lucky” posture, make sure you thank employees for a job well done and show your appreciation with low- or no-cost incentives when possible (like tickets to an art exhibit or the option to leave work early one day).
  2. They do not Ask Their Creative Team for Input.
    If your firm is facing new business challenges, consider putting your group’s talents to work solving those problems. After all, you hired your team because of their strong skills and good judgment. By informing them of the issue — the need to win new clients right away to offset the departure of a major account, for example — you make them stakeholders and give them the opportunity to influence the company’s success.
  3. Rumors Are Ignored.
    Nearly two-thirds of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said it’s common for employees to engage in office gossip. There’s always plenty of grist to fuel the rumor mill, but if you begin to cancel meetings, shut your door or speak in hushed tones, your staff will suspect something is up. And you can count on the fact that if you don’t tell them what’s going on, someone else will. Control the message by giving it yourself, and keep in mind that managers need to be honest whether delivering good news or bad: Don’t promise things you can’t deliver or, alternatively, make a situation appear better than it actually is.
  4. Innovation is Not Fostered in Creative Culture.
    It’s easy to stick to tried-and-true formulas in uncertain times because they’re safe. But you need to take calculated risks and break new ground, or you risk losing your competitive edge. Encourage staff to approach you with innovative concepts; if you can’t implement them, explain why, and let the team know you value their input. Remember that if employee suggestions are dismissed without any real discussion, staff will stop presenting them.
  5. Letting a Lack of Recognition Trickle Down.
    Many senior managers and executives would be the first to admit that they could offer a bit more positive reinforcement. But recognition often becomes endangered during busy times because employees are so focused on their design work. If you’re feeling under-appreciated, don’t make your team feel the same way. Showing your gratitude will motivate team members; as long as praise is specific, genuine and timely, there’s no such thing as too much.

Almost everyone has encountered one of the stumbling blocks mentioned above. By taking measures to avoid them, you can make your workplace more appealing and productive in any business environment.

Resources for Design Managers

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