by Charlotte Trueman

How to motivate your team after a setback

Nov 12, 2018
IT LeadershipMentoring

How to get your team back on track after suffering a professional disappointment

team trust risk gap help assistance challenge
Credit: Getty Images

As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy and few things are truer when it comes to the world of work.

No matter how hard-working your employees are or how dedicated your team is, career setbacks are something we’re all likely to suffer at some point in our careers.

As the manager of a team, your job is doubly hard when it comes to dealing with professional disappointments.

Not only do you have to take ownership of the original problem and help to navigate your employees through it; you must also be able to regroup them in the aftermath and enable them to keep moving forward.

It might sound like a daunting task but in times of crisis, we often look to authority figures for guidance and if you’re unable to provide a much-needed boost in morale, staging a comeback will be difficult.

Below are five steps you should take to help you motivate your team and get them moving forward after a setback.


It’s happened. Sure, it might suck but there’s nothing you can do to change things now. However, while getting retroactively upset about an incident isn’t helpful, reflecting on what went wrong can help provide your team with a clearer idea of how to stop it from happening again.

Learning from your mistakes is never something you should be ashamed of doing. In fact, understanding what went wrong will equip your employees with the confidence they need to overcome any similar problems they might face again in the future.

Acknowledging a mistake happened is important as it removes any shame or stigma your team might be feeling as a result of the fallout.

As a manager, it’s important that you’re there to reassure them in the aftermath, which brings us to our next point…


It’s vital that you keep your team in the loop with all goings-on associated with the setback you’ve suffered.

Depending on the size of your company and the scale of the snafu, your employees could be hearing information from media (mainstream or social) on what happens next.

This is dangerous as unsubstantiated rumours can get blown out of proportion and reported as fact.

Everything your team needs to know should come from you. Openly addressing any mistakes reduces the risk of gossip and helps show your team that you still have faith in them going forward.

However, it’s also important that you let your team do some of the talking. Listening to their grievances or concerns is an important part of the healing process and could actually help you to address some on-going problems that could have contributed to the original setback.

Communication after a crisis is key but it’s important you let your employees know that one setback won’t be the breaking of them.


While a period of reflection is necessary to help your team move forward, dwelling on the past is never going to do anyone any good. Once you’ve cleared the air, you can start re-energising your team and re-establish a happy work environment.

Positivity is contagious and if your team see that you’re motivated and back to business as normal, they’ll be more likely to follow suit.

From every negative, there’s always a positive to be found and placing the emphasis on what actually went right will help to boost morale and re-engage your employees.

Countering a negative event with a positive one is also a good way to help get your team motivated again.

A company paid-for lunch, a half day or a day trip somewhere will not only lift their spirits, it will also help to reduce the stress your team is under and give them a proper chance to regroup.


A successful team has a clear vision, a strong work ethic and a common goal to work towards and after a setback its important to remind your team of this.

Getting back in touch with a vision will often inspire people to work harder and give your employees a renewed sense of what it is they’re working towards.

Whether its witnessing first hand the individuals your company is helping or just re-familiarising your team with a cool piece of tech, getting everyone back on the same page is necessary to ensure you can then all move forward as a group.

Move Forward

You can’t change the past, but you can alter your future. A setback at work might seem career-ending at the time but after you’ve taken the time to work through the previous four steps, you’ll often find it points you and your team in an exciting new direction.

Things didn’t work out before? Now you’ve got to pull together and figure out how you’re going to make things different in the future. Achieving success is always going to involve a certain amount if risk taking.

However, if you have trust in your team and the knowledge that they can bounce back from any professional roadblocks, then the sky really is the limit.