Happy school staff together

5 Ways School Leaders Can Boost Team Morale

Aug 17, 2022 • By Studies Weekly

You’ve hired a talented team to help your district increase student achievement, but how do you keep them motivated throughout the school year?

Team morale refers to the enthusiasm educators have for their jobs, their pride in their schools, and their interest in increasing academic achievement, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

According to an Economic Policy Institute study, instruction quality has the greatest impact on student performance. This explains why the OECD reported in 2012 that students perform poorly in school when teachers have low morale, regardless of students’ socio-economic status. Students especially do poorly in math when they attend schools with low teacher morale. When teachers are unmotivated, they won’t make an effort to teach well. Teachers who love their jobs invest in student success.

The same goes for every member of your staff. No matter how talented they are, the quality of their performance depends on how much they want to do their best.

What Influences Team Morale?

Educator Sarah Brion said in her book, Teacher Morale, the three factors that impact staff morale are:

  • Belongingness: Role expectations align with staff’s personal needs.
  • Identification: District goals coincide with what staff members want to accomplish.
  • Rationality: Staff members think job responsibilities are “logical and well-suited” and see how their roles contribute to your district’s success.

As a school leader, you have the power to improve each of these areas of staff morale so everyone in your district is pushing toward increased student achievement.

Do This First

Before you improve team morale, gauge your own motivation. You can’t inspire others if you’re dragging your feet into the office every day. Boost your morale by:

  • Reading articles and journals to stay on top of industry trends
  • Hiring a mentor or coach
  • Attending webinars and conferences
  • Asking for employee feedback
  • Building work relationships

Once you’re coming to work with a spring in your step, you can help others find their motivation.

Strategies for Boosting Team Morale

Thank you note

Show Appreciation

Think about the last time someone thanked you for your hard work. How did it feel? That’s how each member of your team wants to feel.

A 2017 Office Team study showed that 66% of employees would “likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated.” Among millennials, 76% said they’d quit their job due to a lack of appreciation. Since millennials are becoming the dominant generation in the workforce, staff morale will depend on how well you cater to this generation’s unique set of needs.

The great thing about showing appreciation is that it doesn’t require buying trophies or expensive gifts. You can recognize your team members by leaving a note on their desk, complimenting them in person, and giving shout-outs in meetings, newsletters, and social media posts.

Teachers especially appreciate it when school principals recognize all the extra time and work they put into teaching, tutoring, planning, and grading.

You can also use recognition as an incentive. Celebrate top staff members in each department not only at an end-of-the-year award ceremony but consistently throughout the school year as well. Brainstorm creative or thematic awards. For example, just as schools recognize a Student of the Month, you could honor a Teacher of the Month. Or if your school follows a monthly values plan, you could honor a teacher who exemplifies that value.

Create a Culture of Respect

Team morale increases when school leaders respect their staff members, a 2016 John Lambersky study reports. Respect means treating people with kindness, considering their thoughts and feelings, and encouraging others to do the same. Employees feel respected when you:

  • Welcome their feedback: Create feedback channels where staff members can leave anonymous comments about work hours, salaries, school policies, curriculum, etc. Their insights will give you valuable information on how to improve your district’s education.
    Some members of your staff might be too shy or too busy to reach out to you, so don’t wait for them; initiate the conversation and let them know you value their opinions so they feel comfortable giving you honest feedback.
  • Value their time: Respect that your staff has other priorities besides their job. Manage workloads so no one feels overwhelmed or mistreated. Also, accommodate personal needs and desires to attend special family events. When educators feel you value them as people and not just as employees, they will want to dedicate themselves to helping your district succeed.
  • Protect them from workplace harassment:
    Teachers often feel attacked from every side. To ensure student success, teachers must always perform their best, every day, but managing a classroom of wiggly children is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting on a daily basis.
    Parents saddle teachers with unrealistic expectations for their child, without respect for teachers’ time, energy, and need to support an entire classroom of students. And new teachers often feel overwhelmed about the expectations placed on them by principals, because they are just trying not to drown.

You can prevent workplace drama by encouraging everyone on your team to treat each other with respect, and by creating a safe, supportive space for all educators. Don’t allow parents to harass your teachers, and enforce your district workplace harassment policy fairly. Review this policy with your team each year so new hires know they can feel safe at work.

Happy school staff with high morale meeting together

Promote Health and Wellness

It is easier for people to motivate themselves when they feel optimistic about their work. As a school leader, you can reduce your staff’s stress levels by ensuring they have the necessary resources to do their jobs well. Provide software that runs smoothly and supplies for their classroom or office. Give them enough time to complete each task, and if they fall behind, offer to help.

Your staff members are human and will make mistakes, but you can turn those mistakes into positives by encouraging them to have a growth mindset. Teachers and administrators who see themselves as a work in progress will likely stay motivated and keep reaching for district goals.

Other ways to encourage a growth mindset is to offer peer support, professional development training, and constructive feedback. Encourage your staff to set SMART goals and ask what you can do to help.

(To see Studies Weekly PD training options, click here.)

You can also reduce stress and maintain team morale by helping your staff take care of themselves. Provide healthy snacks, magazines, and crossword puzzles in the breakroom and teacher lounge. Encourage staff members to take short breaks throughout the day. If you notice a teacher or staff member is feeling frustrated, offer to cover for them while they unwind.

School staff having lunch together to boost their team's morale

Foster Work Relationships

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University interviewed 44 teachers about what contributed to their job satisfaction and morale.

“Across the interviews, we found evidence of individual morale being both encouraged and discouraged by the quality of the collegial relationships within the school,” the researchers explained. “The high morale teachers generally felt connected personally and professionally to the community of the school; low morale teachers were more likely to feel isolated.”

As a school leader, you can encourage faculty and staff to build relationships so everyone on your team feels they have someone to turn to for help.

Start by building a relationship with each person in your district. Visit teachers frequently, not just for evaluations, and participate in their lessons. Talk with them after class and ask them how they are enjoying their job.

When you pass staff members in the hallway, greet them with a warm smile and address them by their name. They will feel like you know them personally and want to continue working with you.

If you struggle to find time to talk with your staff members, schedule one-on-one meetings with them. Get to know them on a personal level by asking them about their hobbies, interests, and vacation plans.

To foster peer relationships, plan fun activities for staff members to do together so they can get to know each other in a non-work-related setting.

Activity Ideas:
Scavenger hunt
Escape room
Game night
Yoga in the park
Potluck dinner
Bowling night
Gift exchange

You can also host staff lunches once a month or have Bring Your Co-Worker Breakfast days. Your staff may also enjoy having a secret pen pal they can write notes to during the school year.

Encourage staff members to do group activities on their own, such as starting a book club or attending fitness classes together.

School staff meeting to discuss school concerns

Empower Your Staff

You are more likely to resolve problems in your district when you allow everyone on your team to come up with solutions.

Let your faculty and staff put their talents to good use by involving them in decision-making and leadership opportunities. It takes less off your plate and empowers them to create their own success.

Ask teachers to participate in school planning committees, mentor new teachers, and share their ideas and successes with each other. Have staff members take turns leading meetings and make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their ideas during each meeting.

Jill Jenkins shared in a 2017 Edutopia article how she and her fellow teachers helped reduce drug use at a high school.

“At one high school where I taught, students gathered in small groups in corners of halls and in staircases to smoke and exchange drugs during class time. The faculty was so frustrated that one science teacher grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed a group of students smoking in a staircase adjacent to his room. The faculty met in small problem solving groups to develop a plan,” Jenkins explained. “The solution was simple. Each faculty member sacrificed one consultation period a week. Each teacher was assigned a partner and wandered the halls on hall patrol. The high visible patrol made most students return to class without issue. The more defiant elements were either written up by the team to be counseled and discipline by a vice principal at a later time, or escorted to the vice principal’s office for immediate action.”


In the end, boosting team morale is about getting to know your staff members, what inspired them to go into education, what makes them feel valued, and how you can help them achieve their goals. As you support their dreams and aspirations, they will want to work with you to provide the best learning experience possible and increase student achievement in your district.

Learn more about how Studies Weekly’s PD Training options can help you learn more instructional and leadership strategies.