Management during tough times: views from both sides

An excellent article I read – I am just reproducing that here.

All of us are affected in one way or another by the current recession. Business owners and managers are facing very tough choices as they struggle to keep businesses afloat and profitable. Employees face the specter of potential or actual job losses. The resulting fear can immobilize workers and make it difficult for management to make and implement good decisions.

So what’s a manager or an employee to do? Take a step back, try hard to set aside emotion, and view your specific situation dispassionately and analytically. Then develop a plan and follow it. Positive action on a coherent plan has the power to banish fear. To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear leads to panic and panic to devastating mistakes. FDR had a point.

Make communications your largest investment: Managers should start by remembering that their employees are their biggest asset. It is expensive to find, hire, train, and keep good employees. Don’t waste this resource. It is critical to make sure your employees are as focused as you are on the goals and work of the business. How can this be accomplished? By communicating regularly and effectively throughout your company. This is an important management task when times are good. During hard times, it is absolutely critical.

Employees need to understand the challenges your business is facing and the plans you have to address them. With knowledge, they will be less fearful and far more likely to buy in and actively support your efforts. No one wants to feel like a tiny, meaningless cog in a machine. People want to feel valued and as if their efforts make a difference. Let them know.

If you need to make changes because of economic realities, be as open as you can. Keep your employees informed and aware. Make yourself available to address their concerns and questions. Don’t hide behind your office door or communicate solely through email. If you are present, available and communicating, you will avoid the speculation and gossip that can grow like a nasty cancer in your organization. Scotch the rumour mill with facts.

Open and consistent communication between management and employees will foster a sense of teamwork and commitment throughout your company. Remember that the atmosphere in a work environment, the corporate culture, emanates from the company leaders. This will happen no matter what. So you may as well take deliberate steps and make your work culture as positive and as beneficial to the business as possible.

We-versus-them takes a timeout: Employees need to look beyond self interest and see the bigger picture. This isn’t a time for a “we-versus-them” mentality, especially in a small company. Don’t contribute to the classic management versus labour war. It’s counterproductive for workers and managers alike. Employees, management and owners are all in the same boat. Employees can help foster good will by doing what they can to keep the boat afloat. How can they do this?

First and foremost, fight the fear and the paralysis that tends to come with it. This isn’t a good time to let your performance slip. Continue to do the best work you can, thereby demonstrating your commitment to success and value to the company. This sounds so basic, but it is hard to do when you fear losing your job.

Be a team player: Continue to be a good team player. Courtesy and a positive attitude go a long way toward making a work environment better for all concerned. Avoid gossip and speculation. It isn’t helpful and makes all concerned look bad. You want to be seen as a positive force to your management, not a source of team discord.

If you feel you are not getting the information you need from management, try asking. Approach your boss with openness and courtesy and ask for status information. You may be surprised by the result.

Be prepared for change: When things change in the marketplace, businesses must shift accordingly in order to survive. Accept that and go with the flow. Clinging to previous business models and old ways of working can burden a company to the point of failure. This is counterproductive for all concerned. If your company fails, you will lose your job for sure. As an example, just consider the state of the auto industry. Don’t be a part of holding your company back.

Open communications and effective teamwork between management and labour won’t save every company and every job, but they will save many. These are times to remember that we are travelling together in that boat, so row together, bail as necessary, stay afloat and reach your destination with flags flying.

MARGARET and DENNIS PURVINE are business consultants based in Edmonds. Reach Margaret at 425.918.1910 or margaret@nextstepsolutions.com and Dennis at 206.972.2877 or dennis@cfoselections.com. Read their business blog at http://www.businessinwashington.com.

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