Nowadays you can’t turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or read a magazine without seeing headlines about jobs and the turbulent economy. Inundated with negative news and experiencing the all-too-real repercussions of a financial downturn can be downright depressing and can easily impact performance at work. Believe it or not, there is something productive we can do. Managers and employees alike can infuse the workplace with meaningful activity by focusing on behaviors that lead to positive outcomes.
The following twelve tips will help any manager wade through these difficult economic times; delivering their best performance and that of those who work with them. • Be realistically optimistic. Don’t spend time worrying about things that are beyond your control. Focus only on those things you can control and provide a sense of realistic secure messages that, while times are difficult, there is a future.
Communicate! When hard decisions are needed, make them and communicate them cleanly and clearly to the individuals involved. If you need to lay people off, consider how you can support them during that transition, through community services that might help or via other methods. Encourage dialogue and provide straightforward answers.
Have a contingency plan. Look to your own level as to where you can cut, reduce, and manage, including your own pay before you begin looking at other levels of the organization. If you are at the executive level, you should be the first to step up. You can definitely share this information, but don’t advertise, “Hey I’m a good guy. I’ve just taken a pay cut!”
Invite feedback. Figuring out the honorable thing to do when you’re under the gun and your company is in high distress is difficult. Have trusted advisors who will always challenge you to think clearly and correctly and listen to your clients’ difficulties as well. For example, if they need a certain period of delayed payments and it’s reasonable for you to consider that, try working out payment terms with your customers.
Be energetic in your own efforts to find financial resources and clients for your company. Don’t retreat and don’t become too controlled by what you read or hear in the news. Look beyond the newspapers and examine what you’re actually seeing in your organization. Many times we may find that business continues and even develops, but if we get too gun-shy, too soon, we don’t test good opportunities.
Be willing to spend money during this time. Even while you’re reserving money, don’t retrench so much that you fail to market and reach out. Be careful not to conserve in areas that really will harm your future and growth over the long run.
Consider a pay-for-performance system. You may not be able to give wage increases but you can consider setting up pay-for-performance based on profit sharing. By doing so, you will keep the organization whole while keeping salaries in place. Even at a time when you can’t give raises, you can reward people’s dedication, commitment, and performance by including them in any profits. By having a well-structured, pay-for-performance system, you also make people aware of what it takes to get to that profit.
Engage all employees. Use the skills of your staff to build tools, materials, and resources that you will need going forward. Give employees a sense of purpose by enlisting them in helping to complete those projects you’ve put on hold. That may mean you need to use some creativity but that’s essential because their effort to show up is a valuable gift to you. Treat it as such. • Be flexible. Another alternative is to offer your employees flexible time for their extra efforts. For example, when it’s possible, let them work from home and save on the high cost of gas. But do so carefully, because part of getting through these rough spots is a sense of teamwork and collaboration that happens when people are together trying to solve problems.
Be honest and forthright about the organization’s economic reality. Always keep the information flowing. Don’t freeze up on giving employees the data they need including where you are financially, what’s coming down the pike, and what the future looks like. Have one-on-one conversations with individuals. Be honest; tell them when things are tough and are not going to get better for a while. Let them know you will do all you can to make their lives good and that you’ll remember their contributions, but only if you mean it. In the meantime, do not punish people if they need to explore employment possibilities elsewhere.
Empower employees. Encourage your employees to look for opportunities to find business. Have meetings and ask for suggestions about what the company can do. You might get some good ideas! • Add fun and recognition. No matter what the economic times are, we can still bring in lunches and have little celebrations of events that are happening, just to keep the mood up. The company can support get-togethers such as going to the movies or taking a break in the middle of the day to go to the park. Try to think of events that will reinforce employees. During an economic downturn, management should step back and really look at people’s contributions. Take the time to remember people in specific ways for what they have done. Make that public, enjoy it, and celebrate even in the face of tough times. Employees can do the same with peer-to-peer appreciation. Sometimes that may be difficult to do, but it’s important.
For more than 30 years, Darnell has been dedicated to supporting clients in areas such as strategy implementation, behavioral systems redesign, and leadership development. Her expertise lies in coaching individuals and organizations towards effective behavior change.
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