Last week I addressed 200 employees as the keynote speaker of an annual staff meeting in San Francisco. A
fter I finished, Mike, the company president, took the stage and answered questions that had been previously submitted.
One question addressed the elephant the sits in the middle of too many corporate boardrooms:
“Will there be more layoffs?”
He paused and looked up and said, “I wish I could look you in the eyes and tell you no, but I can’t. Unfortunately, there will be layoffs because right now the work just isn’t there.”
As a professional speaker, I even felt the punch to the gut and even a bit fraudulent. (“Joe, come on in and build morale while we downsize our staff”).
Ironically, the cocktail hour at the conclusion of the content portion of the meeting had a triumphant energy to it. People seemed upbeat, almost relieved to a certain extent. I asked one of the audience members how she viewed the meeting and she replied, “It was really good. Of course, I hope I survive the next round of layoffs but I really appreciate top management being up front and honest with us.”
Regardless of how lean and challenging the economic crunch may be, the most crucial foundation for successful workplace environments remains the same: Trust. In good times or bad, the common link to workplace performance is whether or not people are being told the truth. The less information they are provided, the more quickly trust will erode.
4 tips to stay connected with staff in these times are as follows:
1. Be generous about dispersing information: As anxiety and uncertainty climbs with staff members, so does resentment and other counterproductive emotions. Much of this can be relieved, even prevented, by providing a roadmap of what you know and what you do not. And do so frequently. Similar to admitting fault or apologizing, proactively providing information demonstrates a concern for the personal and professional well being of employees.
2. Make time to listen: Poor listening is one of the biggest complaints in the workplace and the downfall of many companies because leaders don’t lock in to what employees want and need. If there is constant questioning like, “Why are their pay cuts?” or “Are we going to lose are biggest client?,” you have a pattern which needs to be addressed. Process-focused managers will often never take the time to learn the concerns of staff or simply ignore them. If you want to improve the condition of your organization, take time to ask questions and truly listen to what your people want to know.
3. Continue to develop skills: Even if the budget for training and development isn’t there, the ability to pass on knowledge and build skills remains omnipresent. In fact, bosses should communicate that you want to focus on strengths and well as crucial growth areas of every staff members. As part of the ongoing need for productivity, mentoring and coaching showcases leadership, develops stronger skilled employees while upping performance.
4. Increase the attaboys: At our core, we still desire recognition and positive reinforcement for the results we achieve and efforts we make. Many employees may not show it, but they want it. Whenever possible, try to keep attitudes positive and the words, tone of voice and appreciation for team spirit high. It may seem counter-intuitive to be upbeat in down times, but in the words of one of the greatest leaders of all time, John Wooden, “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”