It can take a Herculean effort to successfully lead a stressed workforce.
The headlines tell the story – these are difficult economic times, causing apprehension and nervousness in employees throughout a sizeable portion of corporate America. In many companies, a host of counterproductive emotional issues are in play … and executives who don’t recognize and address them will have difficulty moving their organizations forward.
Uncertainty and fear are the biggest obstacles
Companies undergoing layoffs are dealing with anxious employees, as are those where workforce reductions are a future possibility. With terminations being conducted in waves and reported daily in the press, no one knows if and when the pink slip is coming. These are not circumstances conducive to engaging and motivating employees.
The insight out
In workshops I’ve led for the “survivors” of layoffs, a loud and clear message often comes through. Trust and pride in the organization has been eroded and an attitude of “me first” dominates – exactly the opposite factors needed to “right the ship.”
Negative feelings always impact productivity and work quality. The consequences generally are increased error rates, decreased creativity, higher levels of absenteeism and poorer problem solving. The once upbeat water cooler hangout morphs into a gloomy commiseration gathering where complaints, resentment and suspicion towards the company are continually reinforced.
There's a downhill trajectory in this scenario and if not reversed, you could end up with a lose-lose outcome.
Navigating rough waters
Getting your workforce through a difficult time is a true test of corporate leadership. The following five actions will help regain some of that lost trust and go a long way towards improving morale.
1. Acknowledge the reality – recognize the issues, problems, emotions and reactions your employees are experiencing
2. Communicate candidly and often – in any crisis situation, frequent communication helps reduce fear and dispel uncertainty
3. Display and encourage adaptability – upheaval in the workplace requires a new and relevant approach to engaging your workforce
4. Inspire ideas – lead town halls and thought sessions to involve everyone in solutions
5. Be emotionally intelligent
While these measures won’t turn back the clock to the good old days … they’ll increase your odds of making your workforce and organization more productive. They’re the “must-do” actions that can foster the “can-do” reactions.
Responsibilities of leaders are heightened during turbulent times … but if successful, so are their reputations.