General Electric ( GE) Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt waived his multimillion-dollar bonus last year as the economy was mired in a recession, though he went to bat for senior executives, who helped set a record for revenue. That's one way business leaders can improve employee morale. After all, if the recession is causing serious challenges for your small business, it's most likely that every employee in your office is feeling the pressure. Hard times for the company can mean fewer perks for workers, changing employee expectations and increased competition within the office. Worst of all, employees are likely seeing friends they've worked with for years get laid off -- and worrying they might be next. An effective leader should take proactive steps to ensure that sinking morale doesn't hurt productivity or turn the office into a locus of stress. Here are some reliable ways to keep spirits up in your office, along with a few approaches that might worsen the situation. Do: Show strong leadership: Being a visible and vocal leader is a crucial first step toward easing employees' anxieties. You may have more on your plate than ever, but it's not the time to be hiding behind your desk. Employees will feel better if they know their leader is actively and confidently guiding them. Simply making yourself seen throughout the business is important, but you might also give speeches, send out notes of encouragement or drop in on meetings that you would normally skip.