How to Motivate Employees as a Manager During Uncertain Times

employees sitting around large table in meeting room

As a manager in the restaurant industry, it can be challenging to motivate your employees during periods of uncertainty, such as in the wake of economic downturns or during times of change.  Keep in mind that your employees are facing their own personal challenges and may be worried about things like job security or their own financial stability.

In this article, we’ll share five tips for motivating your team during difficult times.

1. Communicate Openly and Honestly

During uncertain times, your team may be feeling anxious and stressed. Maintaining trust and transparency can help to alleviate these feelings and create a sense of stability and security. Trust and transparency can help to reduce the potential for misunderstandings or conflicts within the team, especially during periods when employees may be abnormally burdened by stress. 

Trust and transparency can also help to build resilience and adaptability within the team. When employees feel that they can trust and rely on you and their colleagues, they’re more likely to work together to overcome challenges. Take the time to meet with your team one-on-one to discuss their thoughts, feelings and fears. Let them voice any concerns they’ve had or parts of their job that may be contributing to higher stress levels. 

Being a good listener is a key way to maintain transparent, open communication with your team.  If you receive feedback that is constructive and could lead to a change, try to implement this. By not only listening to feedback, but using the feedback to drive change, the team will feel like their voice matters and they are heard. 

Sometimes communication can be difficult which leads to miscommunication about changes or updates. Clearly communicate the purpose of the change and how it will impact the team and the business. If it’s possible, involve your team in the decision-making process. This can give them a sense of ownership and control. Even if it is only opinion-based, or asking them for input as the subject matter expert, involvement improves communication very quickly.  

During times of change, follow up with employees to ensure that they understand the change and to address any concerns they may have. This can be done in a one-on-one setting or at an open-forum style communication. Create safe spaces for opinions, feedback, and questions to be voiced. Make sure the communication is a two-way street, so your team doesn’t feel shut off from you as a manager.

2. Show Appreciation for Hard Work and Initiative

When you recognize your employees for their hard work, they can feel valued and appreciated, which can increase their level of satisfaction in their work. A key part of recognizing employees is knowing how they like to be recognized. If someone is more introverted, they are less likely to enjoy a social team lunch or public praise. They may value a one-on-one conversation or personalized gift. 

When employees know that their hard work is being noticed and appreciated by their manager and colleagues, they’ll be more likely to maintain that level of performance. Remember, people are motivated by different things in life, so knowing if your employee is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated is key to keeping employees motivated. A good way to find this out is to have a one-on-one conversation when they first start to find out their preferences on recognition and motivation. Knowing your employees will help you show appreciation in the right ways. 

Here are some ways to show appreciation for hard work or team members who have gone above and beyond what they’re expected to do:

  • Verbal or written praise
  • Offer praise during meetings, one-on-ones, or any other time
  • Call out your employee’s actions with the owners, other managers or during team meetings. If there’s room for advancement, employees who exceed expectations could be prioritized when promotions are available.

Some of the key things to remember when showing appreciation is to always use your employee’s name. Praise doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it should be specific. Make sure to let the employee know how what they did affects the company. Seeing the big picture helps continue to motivate the good behavior exhibited. Another key piece of praising employees is to keep it timely. Do not wait till days or weeks after actions. Ideally, the employee would be recognized within a day. 

3. Offer Support

Supporting your team is key to keeping your team engaged and motivated. A team that feels supported is less likely to experience significant attrition. Having purpose and meaning to the process of your job helps keep employees connected. Seeing how your job ties into the whole company allows employees to feel like a key part of the company, and managers need to be supportive to make this knowledge positive, not overwhelming. 

A team that feels supported will be more motivated to get things done, and reciprocate by supporting others on their team. Ultimately, a supported team is a stronger team. 

Depending on what your team is like, how you support them may vary. Some ways to support them include:

  • Providing flexible scheduling options
  • Providing access to mental health resources or counseling

By providing flexible scheduling options, employees know that their life outside of work is important and that they work for a company that wants them to have work-life balance. This support helps retain employees and allows for open communication, which will prevent potential issues down the road. Making sure employees have access to mental health resources and counseling is necessary to motivate and support employees. Highlight your company’s EAP and other benefits that are instrumental in mental health. Admitting that you don’t know everything and being open to feedback can completely change the company culture. Inclusion and support of employees will only benefit your company. Employees who are valued and heard, are more likely to enjoy the work they do which shows in the work they complete. 

Finally, keep in mind that you might not automatically know how to best support your team, and that’s okay. Simply listening and being open to feedback can often reveal what your team needs to be supported. 

4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Goals give your team something concrete to work toward, and expectations help employees understand what they should be doing while allowing them to accurately assess their own performance without worrying. In addition to work-related goals, encourage employees to work towards personal goals. Having goals to work towards, especially new goals, can energize employees, even if they had previously been unmotivated and uninterested. Having clearly established goals allows your team to feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when they meet those goals. Make sure that there are small milestones within the goals to celebrate, not just end results. 

To ensure goals are effective, make sure they’re clearly defined. A goal that’s murky or unclear can frustrate your team and ultimately reduce motivation. Show how this goal ties into a bigger project or goal. By adding importance to goals of every size, you can make them more interesting and attainable. Assign specific tasks and responsibilities to employees or roles. Let employees know why they were picked for those tasks and responsibilities and what skills they have that make them the best for the job. 

Finally, hold regular meetings for checking in on the team’s progress. Whether this is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, knowing when things will get talked about and brought up can help define the goal and the timeline needed to accomplish. If your teams’ goals need to be adjusted, make sure that you communicate that as well. 

Some of the benefits of having clear goals are increased job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and greater cohesion across the team.

5. Foster Team Building Opportunities

Establishing a sense of community and teamwork can help motivate your employees and foster a positive work environment. Personal commitment to a team will improve motivation and the work environment more than any extrinsic motivation or reward. People work the hardest with those they like working with, who they don’t want to let down. 

Regularly occurring team building activities can help sustain those positive attitudes and motivation. Whether this is a team lunch, additional icebreakers on meetings, or small games to encourage communication and teamwork, team building can benefit any group, regardless of how long they’ve been working together. 

Some recurring activities you could do with your team include volunteering in your community, having competitions, or doing outdoor activities like walks or picnics. Your team could join an intramural sports team together or take a painting class. Use the interests of the team to encourage them to bond and build their relationships. Adding a personal touch to the activities, without becoming unprofessional, will help the team become a cohesive unit. 

The benefits of team building can include increased collaboration and communication, motivated employees, and a sense of camaraderie.  A sense of camaraderie can also help increase retention of people on the team. Usually when people leave a job they miss their coworkers, not the job, so encouraging a friendly team and supporting the team to enjoy the job and tasks can help employees stay satisfied with their job. 

Society Insurance is Here to Protect Your Business

The effects of the pandemic are still lingering, and uncertain economic times can be a serious cause for concern for your team.  As a manager, showing your support and appreciation for your team can contribute to keeping morale high and motivating your employees to give their best effort. 

At Society Insurance, we understand the challenges you face as a manager. It’s not always easy to motivate your team, especially during such uncertain times. That’s why we take pride in protecting your business—that way, you can devote more time to your team and processes that generate revenue

Ready to learn more? Get in touch with your local agent today!


We strive to ensure each new hire will make a contribution to help keep Society moving forward. Beyond the necessary skills required for the job, we look to hire those with additional attributes to create a cohesive environment within our company. Join us and maximize your potential here at Society Insurance by applying at

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