Life as a small business owner is often stressful. Sometimes it can be downright miserable. But it’s important for a business owner to realize that, while he or she may feel the lion’s share of the pressure, that employees are very much aware when things aren’t right.

And as your employees begin to recognize that things aren’t right, they start to worry and they start to talk. If you aren’t proactive, a “doom and gloom” mentality will begin to emerge, and you’ll find that your team is less motivated and less productive than ever before.

So how can you prevent negativity from taking over?

First, understand that honesty is the best policy. If you’re not upfront with your team about the challenges that you are facing, rumors will start to spread. Employees will worry that they are going to lose their jobs. Some of them may even leave in favor of an opportunity they judge to be more secure. By openly discussing the challenges that you face, you can put an end to rumors and speculation before it begins.

It’s important that you work to be even more encouraging and supportive of your employees when times are tough. This is difficult, of course, because the pressures you are facing likely make you want to do the opposite. But if you begin to take out your stress on your team, you’re only making things worse. Force yourself to stay positive in front of your team, if you feel the need to vent, do so with a family member or a friend.

Finally, give your employees a chance to share their thoughts. Describe the challenges that you’re facing and seek input. Tough economic times will often make your team feel helpless, but by asking for their thoughts and ideas you will make it clear that you value their input. You may get a great idea out of this process… but even if you don’t, you’ve given your team a reason to stay engaged and to stay motivated.

An effective, motivated team is critical when things are tough. Turning things around requires a team effort, and it won’t happen without an engaged workforce. If times are tough for your business, make it a priority to keep your employee morale high. Otherwise, you risk falling into a cycle of negativity that you may never recover from.