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Employee Stress: is it coming out sideways?

10 Jan

A gentleman I know in town is a counselor who has developed a practice working with veterans suffering from Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Being a vet himself, he understands some of what these heroic soldiers are going through. Over time he helps them find a voice for their feelings, knowing that talking through these issues can support their healing. He told me once: “Mark, my job is to help them get these feelings out in the open. All that stuff is bottled up in there, and it’s going to come out. It can come out in a productive way, or it can come out sideways– either way, it’s going to come out.”

Our employees may not be in harms way like the soldiers my friend helps, but we can gain insight from his approach to helping them deal with their stress.  Like him, we can acknowledge two things– that our employees are stressed, and that one way or another it’s going to come out.

  • What can we do to help our team members express their concerns about this current economic crisis in a productive way?
  • With whom can we help them connect?
  • What do we need to do to help our supervisors be more effective at listening to the needs of their employees?

As we continue to work through these difficult economic times let’s work to help stress from “coming out sideways”.

To RIF Or Not To RIF– Is That The Question?

20 Feb


There’s a fine article in the Omaha World-Herald about the ongoing debate of whether to sever employees or institute salary freezes/ cutting back hours as options to reduce costs given the tough economic climate. A number viewpoints are offered about both approaches. The article also raises an important issue about management and how any effort should be approached– here’s David Sokol, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway-owned MidAmerican Holdings Company:

In such cases, though, businesses sometimes become shortsighted,  Sokol said. They don’t realize that if they’re not careful, they could lose an awful lot of their best talent.

“Step number one is to make sure that you’re communicating openly and honestly about what’s going on, so that they’re not just hearing rumors. Because, frankly, your employees tend to be lot smarter (than that) . . . they normally know well ahead of your telling them.

As I’ve started in previous posts, it’s probably beyond my pay grade to advise a company whether they should conduct a RIF or salary cutbacks. I do think it my charge to continue pointing out that the success of either tactic will depend heavily on how management goes about it, including communicating in the way Mr. Sokol advises.

Think You Know What Your Employees Are Thinking Right Now? Think Again.

9 Feb


Salary.Com Inc. has conducted a survey of employee and employer perceptions about employee job satisfaction and intent-to-stay. The study, reviewed at Occupational Safety & Health Online reports:

According to the survey, employee satisfaction levels are often overestimated by employers. A set of questions new to this year’s survey found that the current economic climate was less of a deterrent to job seeking than employers anticipated, while variables such as income, job level, industry and age remained consistent factors that affect job satisfaction year-over-year.

Key data points:

• Overall, the survey showed that 65 percent of employees are at least somewhat satisfied in their jobs while employers estimated that figure to be 77 percent. 
• Approximately 65 percent of employees admitted to passively or actively looking for a new job, compared to employers’ estimate of 37 percent. 
• While employers have a good sense of overall employee satisfaction, they often overestimate the degree of extremely satisfied employees nearly 2 to 1. 
• The levels of satisfaction among employees surveyed varied by job level and salary. Not surprisingly, the results of the survey suggest there is a direct link between pay and satisfaction — the higher the salary and job level, the greater the number of extremely satisfied employees. 
• Age affects job satisfaction — millennials report the lowest job satisfaction.

Perhaps this study doesn’t shock you, but it does reveal an important insight that should call us to action–the best way to find about how employees are feeling is to ask them. We need to do a much better job of listening, really hearing, what our associates are feeling right now.