How to Strengthen Low Morale Brought About by Survivor’s Syndrome 

6 Steps to Rebuild Morale Through Archetypes and Creative Role Play

Learning Resources from School of WorkLife. Resources to help you self-direct your WorkLife learning.
Resources to help you self-direct your WorkLife learning

imagesIn this current economic climate, many companies are forced to go through restructuring processes resulting in considerable downsizing. This can seriously impact morale and bring it to an all-time low.Low morale is likely to result in an unhappy workforce.People are struggling to keep their heads above water, but they need to somehow come through this and make it work if their company (and their roles) are to survive.

What is Survivor’s Syndrome?

‘Survivors Syndrome’ is when the people who have remained in a job are challenged with delivering not only on their original roles/workloads but also stepping in and stepping up to fill the gaps caused by the loss of their colleagues along with their skills, knowledge and experience. This often results in low morale at work.

The loss of colleagues can cause Survivor’s Syndrome – a sense of guilt for the people who kept their job while their colleagues lost theirs. This, in turn, can bring about low morale.

When morale is low it leads to negativity, causing a ‘stuckness’ in people’s thinking.

How To Strengthen Low Morale

Fresh thinking is needed to be able to move beyond this, to explore ideas that stimulate. A valuable technique to help achieve this is to work with archetypes through creative role-play.

Case Study: How to Strengthen Low Morale Brought About by Survivor’s Syndrome 

6 Steps to Rebuild Morale Through Archetypes and Creative Role Play

Kate, as head of Human Resources, is tasked with strengthening the low morale within her company that came from a restructuring process which brought about many job losses that resulted in survivors syndrome for those who remained in their roles.

Kate believes morale within the company needs to be rebuilt before it can be strengthened.

She brings in Evolving Careers Players (ECP) to explore ideas that will be stimulating to the project and the team. A pilot team made up of four people across four functions of the organisation: I.T., Finance, Sales and Marketing and Research and Development are selected to work with the ideas before the project is rolled out to the organisation at large.

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Who are Evolving Careers Players?

Evolving Careers Players (ECP) is a team of WorkLife learning practitioners and artists – performing, visual and literary.

The group’s formation came from the core principle that the techniques, methods and structure of theatre making are significant in the world of WorkLife learning and development. 

The belief behind this is that the unique skill sets that artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This is “learning by doing”, enabling the practice of new skills sets and behaviours in a safe, supportive, challenging and creative environment. 

ECP’s work enables individuals and teams to be more active, spontaneous and flexible, freeing their minds to use their imagination in being inventive and original. The intrinsic nature of their work helps foster creativity, team spirit and emotional intelligence. 

This benefits companies in opening the door to new levels of trust, collaboration and outcomes, enabling better working relationships through building stronger teams.

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6 Steps to Rebuild Morale Through Archetypes and Creative Role Play

What is Archetypical Role?

An archetype is an emotion, character type, or event that is notably recurrent across the human experience. In the arts, an archetype creates an immediate sense of familiarity, allowing an audience member to relate to an event or character without having to necessarily ponder why they relate. (Source Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass) 

Step 1. To be in a position to understand the 4 team members, ECP (The Players) need to take on their archetypical characteristics.

Working with the core principles of ECP around the techniques, structures and methods of theatre, together ECP, Kate, and the team are able to identify/recognise the team/themselves as the following archetypes:

The Brick Wall: This role specialises in stonewalling. It refuses to make any contribution to the interaction. It is the archetypal ‘no comment’

The Rescuer: This role is about putting the focus on to other people, calling for help to be given to someone else. This way, the spotlight on the self is avoided.

The Mouth: This role likes to talk its way out of situations, saying anything at all, even complete rubbish, rather than have the focus of enquiry more meaningfully directed.

Mr/Ms Cool: This role likes to take a laid-back approach to life, essentially articulating an arrogance that makes a mockery of any challenge.

Step 2. The Players enact The First Scenario:

The ‘big question/problem’ is raised: ‘How do we rebuild morale?’ and is answered in a round-robin way in character.

This is conversational: by way of dialogue, the players take on the identity of the four team members. This allows the players to gain an understanding of each person: to get under their skin, to feel their pain and to get into their minds to enable them to know how they think.

Kate and her team observe, and the scene is filmed to be watched back and discussed. 

Step 3. Each team member is asked to say one positive thing about themselves in the interaction and to say what one thing they would change about themselves to allow this to move on. 

Then the person sitting to their right is asked to say one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and to make one suggestion to their colleague of a change to be made to move on. They are instructed to keep this positive. Following on from this, the second scenario is established. 

The team take on the role of directing themselves through the Players, and this is played out in the video demonstration. 

Step 4. The Players enact The Second Scenario:

The ‘big question/problem’ remains. ‘How do we rebuild morale?’

The players in their characters keep the two positive things mentioned and take on the two suggested changes they could do to move things on. 

The conversation continues, is observed, filmed, watched back and discussed. 

Step 5. Each team member again says one positive thing about themselves in the interaction, along with one thing they would change about themselves to allow things to move on. The person to their right once again says one positive thing about their colleague in the interaction and one suggestion of a change to be made to move on.

The team take on the role of directing themselves through the Players, and this is played out in the video demonstration. 

Step 6. The exercise is repeated as many times as needed for the team to be confident they have a workable action plan which will help rebuild morale that can be rolled out throughout the organisation.

Words of Wisdom

I believe that we have the solution to every problem we encounter within us. I call it our inner sage wisdom. We just need to find a way to tap into it.

Archetypical Role-Play is a simple technique to awaken your creative mind to help you tap into your inner sage wisdom to resolve your problem. This also helps you to fine-tune your ability to self-direct your learning. 

As a learning practitioner, writer and founder of Evolving Careers Players, I worked with the artists to develop the archetypes for this WorkLife lesson, drawing from our combined areas of knowledge and experience.

The pandemic brought an abrupt halt to our work at Evolving Careers Players. 

Having developed and delivered learning programmes since 2003, I’ve been through a few economic downturns brought about by external influences. Whether the pandemic or the crash of the financial markets, these always impacted individuals as investment in learning was one of many companies’ first budgets to be frozen.

Having no work to keep me occupied, I set about changing the status quo of people’s desire for continuous learning, being negatively impacted by what was deemed to be an acceptable practice of freezing learning budgets during times of uncertainty. 

I set about creating resources that are helpful, insightful and inspiring in helping people to pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone. 

That was to become my Guiding Statement in establishing School of WorkLife.

School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time. 

What is Self Directed Learning? 

Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint. 

Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning (and your team’s)

Scott Jeffrey’s Archetypes List is an excellent resource to help you (and your team) understand how you can apply the guiding principles of archetypes role-play to your WorkLife learning.

You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside.

How To Start Something New in Difficult Times 

How To Successfully Invent and Reinvent Yourself 

How To Use Turning Points to Start Something Different and Better

You can view the complete collection of books here: The School of WorkLife Book Series.

Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning.
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning.

Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning.  These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a  Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies.  which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club. 

That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.