Tag Archives: Economic Crisis

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”.

After The RIF, Don’t Panic

29 Aug


Excellent advice from India’s Express Computer Online if you going through a downsizing.

If your organization has undergone trauma in the form of layoffs as a result of economic conditions or other reasons (e.g. M&A-induced redundancies), what should HR practitioners and organizational managers and leaders do? The WorkTrends results suggest a number of important steps that can be taken to enhance future levels of engagement and mitigate the potential of regrettable turnover. 

  • Confidence is key—Perhaps one of the most important first steps in any post-layoff environment is to regain employees’ confidence in the organization and particularly the future role that they play. While this may seem obvious, a crisis situation may cloud that. Confidence can be instilled in a variety of ways, but organizational leaders should communicate the strategy going forward, translate the strategy into what it means for workgroups, listen to employee concerns, and make clear how the future will be bright for individual employees. Give them a ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’
  • Recognition and opportunity—In the midst of crisis, individuals still make their way the best they can. Life goes on, despite the turmoil. Managers need to consider this while the organization struggles; employees need to know that they are doing their job well and that there will be again opportunities from them at the organization, especially in times after crisis. In other words, give them a reason to hang in there.
  • Turn ‘me’ into ‘we’—In a post layoff environment, employees may turn inward and worry more about matters that are personally relevant or give them a sense of security. Naturally, in times of uncertainty, employees and managers will be more concerned with their own work and livelihood. This tendency towards protectionism can threaten to break down the social ties that bind an organization together. Reinforcing messages such as ‘We are all in this together,’ and reiterating that group is stronger than individuals will encourage employees to bond together and increase organizational loyalty.
  • Prepare for the rebound—Finally, while there are things that can and should be done now for your layoff survivors, it is also important to take a long-term perspective. The economy will eventually rebound, customers will return, and hopefully your company will return to its upward path to prosperity. How your layoff survivors are treated will become part of the organization’s history. If it is done well, that can help attract and retain new employees. If it is done poorly, it will have the opposite effect.

I recently assisted an organization that had to go through a downsizing. The leaders acted in a professional and dignfied manner. The reduction certainly had an impact– they always do– but that impact can be managed by effective leadership.

Want Lose Millions In Minutes? Disengaged Employees Will Do That

18 Aug


According to a study posted at DestinationCRM.com disengaged employees are a growing problem in the financial services industry, one that cost a company dearly:

The problem created by disengaged employees is that it affects how they perform their tasks. This goes from the customer-facing agents dealing with consumers to the fund managers and traders. “For fund managers, lack of employee engagement may not necessarily mean losing a customer, but rather $4 million in five minutes,” says Aaron Horenstein, research analyst at ORC Guideline. “To have those employees disengaged or not fully engaged would have a tremendous impact on the industry.”

As the saying goes, now we’re talking about real money. The ROI is quite clear- disengagement can cost an employer dearly– leaders have to stop giving this lip service and start managing to engage.

Job Loss Emotions– Deal With Them Or They’ll Come Out Sideways

16 Aug


There’s an excellent article in the New York Times about how to deal with the stresses that invariably will face someone when they are in a prolonged job search in these difficult economic times. Some of the advice I found most useful:

Periodically, you may need to “download” all your emotions — to write them down or discuss them with a trusted friend who won’t criticize or judge you, Dr. Molitor said. Then identify which things you can control and which you can’t. Throughout your search, make detailed lists of the things you have done and still need to do, she said.

If you keep your emotions bottled up, “you’re going to have stress symptoms later,” she said. These can include insomnia, panic attacks, and colds brought on by a weakened immune system, she said. (And these will make you perform all the worse during an interview.)

Mentally, stress can distort your perspective. “When we get stressed, the brain is sometimes ineffective at processing things rationally,” Dr. Molitor said. In short, things may not be nearly as bad as they appear, and you have more control over your situation than you think.

Years ago I received advice that stress will always come out– they question is only how– either in a way that you manage or “sideways”.

I’ve been in the job search and have felt these emotions as well– thankfully I had good help at hand.In my professional life have counseled hundreds of people through corporate-sponsored outplacement. I see too many people who keep stress bottled up, only to have it come out sideways at an unopportune time, like a job interview.

I told one particularly stressed out client I advised:

“Employers can sense that something isn’t right in an interview. They may not know what they’re sensing, but that uncomfortable feeling may make them pass on you.”

He took the mesage to heart and eventually got the job. To another client, who was both angry about being laid off and also depressed about the matter (anger and depression are, of course, quite related) I said:

Employers are kind of funny. They already have lots of angry and depressed people on staff. They don’t need one more.

He too heeded the advice and got about the difficult business of dealing with these difficult emotions. This is very serious stuff, and the advice in this article is a good place to start if you are without work and feel like your emotions are getting the best of you.

Is Your RIF Leaving Staff “Punch Drunk”?

11 Aug


Yet another survey, this time from People Management, points to how badly most employers go about force reductions:

As half of UK businesses consider making redundancies within months, the damaging effect on morale has been highlighted by a CIPD survey of 3,000 employees. The YouGov survey found that 70 per cent of employees said redundancies had damaged morale, with 22 per cent so unhappy about how redundancies were being handled that they were looking to change jobs as soon as the labour market improved. Just over a quarter said they were less motivated as a result of redundancies.
Some 81 per cent believed senior managers needed to restore or improve trust in their leadership, as only a quarter said that they were consulted on important decisions. Just over half of employees said frequent and honest communications would have the greatest impact on improving trust. Public outrage at “rewards for failure” was also reflected in the survey, as 29 per cent said not rewarding failing senior managers was key to rebuilding trust.
Ben Willmott, CIPD senior adviser, public policy, said: “Survivors of redundancy programmes left ‘punch drunk’ by the process may not have the levels of motivation and commitment needed for their employers to capitalise on any recovery. Many disillusioned employees will vote with their feet and leave as soon as the labour market picks up.

Terribly sad, really. By leaving employees “sucker punched”, leaders risk losing those employees who survive the layoff. In the employee engagement surveys we’ve analyzed for our book Re-Engage!, we see many employees who are, to coin a phrase, “sullen and near mutinous.

In A Recession, Bad Managers Make Things Even Worse

3 Aug


I recently analyzed employee engagement surveys for two different employers. In both cases I found a group of employees who had significantly lower results than the rest of the company. As I dug deeper into the results, including the anecdotal comments, the same problem in both employers become clear:

Bad, rogue management.

What sickened me most was what these rogue managers were doing to “motivate” employees in the midst of this economic crisis. In both cases they were telling employees:

 “you better keep your nose to the grindstone, because if you don’t I can hire a dozen others just like you who don’t have a job. And don’t making any demands, because I’m in charge here.”

Could someone please tell me why ANYONE would think this strategy is going to make sense for these businesses now or, importantly, in the future?


Our research tells us there are other employers who are not subscribing to this kind of fear mongering and are, in fact, managing in a more engaging manner and, in doing so, achieving outstanding results.

The “you-bet-your-job” attitude on the part of some so-called leaders isn’t the cure to our economic woes.

For more information on what some outstanding employers are doing to engage employee in difficult economic times please read Beating the Bear Market with Engaged Employees

Survival Tips For Layoff Survivors

17 Apr

Excellent post by Susan M. Heathfield at About.Com if you are one of the so-called “survivors” of a layoff. Please read carefully and share with those who may find themselves in this situation. We often worry (as we should) about those who lose their jobs, but should also consider what can be done to assist those who may have more work on their desk because of the reduction and are wondering when the pink slip will hit their desk:

  • Recognize that your emotions are legitimate and that time passing is necessary for the intensity of your current emotional response to die down. In organizations where managers recognize and acknowledge this emotional component in a downsizing, employees return to productivity much sooner.
  • Recognize that you may need to experience each of the stages of loss described in Kubler-Ross’s groundbreaking studies about grief.
  • Seek access to your supervisor; assuming your supervisor is readily available and perceived by you as concerned about employees, and honest, reliable and competent, your time with your supervisor should help you feel reassured.
  • Attempt to recreate the daily patterns you experienced prior to the layoffs. While much time in an office is invested by employees in talking about the situation after layoffs, the sooner you can recreate your prior patterns, the better for your mental health.
  • Treat yourself with kindness. Now is the time to eat a portion of your favorite comfort food. Got chocolate? Share with coworkers. Bring in a casserole or cookies that coworkers can share. Small gestures mean a lot in the post layoffs workplace.
  • Talk out your feelings with coworkers who are likely experiencing loss just as you are. You can comfort one another. Your significant others outside of your workplace make good sounding boards, too.
  • Pay attention to the needs of the coworkers who were laid off. These are your friends and they are experiencing serious issues with self-worth and loss, too. So many people tie up so much of their identity and self esteem in what they do for a living that a layoff is a major blow to their sense of themselves, their competence and self worth. You do them a kindness, and you will feel better, too, if you continue your weekly lunch date with your laid off coworker. Let your laid off former coworker vent and listen to see how you can lend support. Sometimes, active listening is all they need.
  • You will feel as if you have a proactive mission and purpose when you connect your laid off coworkers to your connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the other online social networks. Anything you can do to help them expand their networks and effectively job search will be valued by your friends.
  • Communication is critical following a layoff. But, remember that the middle managers who would generally communicate are also experiencing loss and concern about their own jobs. (Often managers are the first to be laid off.) If you are not receiving the communication you need from your manager, seek it out by asking questions and spending time with him or her. Go after what you need; don’t wait for communication to flow downwards.
  • Hopefully, your organization has recognized the importance of valuing the remaining employees. But, if the opportunities for reward, recognition and valuing seem slim, volunteer to head up an employee morale committee. The committee can do much to bring fun and motivation back into the workplace following layoffs. Think ice cream socials, popcorn machines, and potluck lunches; the activities don’t need to be expensive.
  • If you are taking these steps but you are feeling increasingly worried and depressed, seek professional assistance through your Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or use your private insurance to cover counseling.

In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers???

25 Mar


There’s a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review Online with this “provocative” title. It suggests that selling in a more traditional way– find a point of pain and address it– may not work in the current B to B environment. The authors discuss being provocative, which includes the following elements:

To begin a provocation-based sale, you must do three things well: identify a problem that will resonate with a line executive in the target organization; develop a provocative point of view about that problem (one that links, naturally, to what your company has to offer); and lodge that provocation with a decision maker who can take the implied action.

The article discusses how to go about these steps, and offers examples of companies that have used the approach. I think HR executives could take a similar approach to “selling” the value of HR in these challenging times. Some leaders may be willing to abandon good human capital practices to “save money”, which is exactly the wrongdirection to go. For those of us committed to building great workplaces– because we know that is one key ingredient right now– let’s be provocative!

Grown Ups Need Recess Too…

6 Mar


… Such is the claim by Dr. Stewart Friedman at Harvard Business Online. He comments on research published by the journal Pediatrics, which shows that recess breaks are good for the educational achievements of children. Dr. Friedman posits the same thing can happen for we grown ups:

The paradoxical lesson of this story is relevant not just for school children but for us grownups, too: taking time out to restore and rejuvenate ourselves results not in reduced performance caused by less time dedicated to work, but to increased performance caused by the stronger, more focused effort you bring to work after fruitful rest.

But in the midst of this soul-crushing, terror-inducing recession, how can anyone think seriously, and without guilt, about undertaking activity that isn’t directly reducing costs or increasing revenues? The short answer is that you can’t afford not to.

Dr. Friedman goes on to offer several ideas of what you can do to refresh yourself daily. He mentioned my favorite– crossword puzzles. I’m hope you find something that allows you put the pressures of the day behind you, at least momentarily, so you can return to them with a stronger constitution.

Recession Opportunity– Underutilized Talent

4 Mar


A report published in Business Week shows an opportunity waiting for business to seize right now– underutilized talent:

According to a winter 2008 Accenture (ACN) survey, which BusinessWeek has an exclusive first look at, 46% of women and 49% of men worldwide believe they are insufficiently challenged in their jobs.

“What this means for companies is that they have a huge opportunity with the talent they own to get more return [out of these] same people, if they just know how to ask them and how to engage them,” says Armelle Carminati, Managing Director of Human Capital and Diversity at Accenture. “Your employees are eager to do more. They are capable of doing more. They want to do more. This is a great competitive advantage for you as a company because you don’t have to hire new talent in a challenging environment—you have the talent in place.”


  • How could you more effectively engage the talent of associates where you work?
  • By not doing so, do you risk losing them to a competitor who will?