By Margaret Hansen
In the sparsely populated cubicles of a downsized office sit existing employees; the lucky ones, or so it would seem.
But as the remaining few take on extra, possibly unknown duties with fewer resources, moods can quickly sour. Financial stress and uncertainty from the loss of a spouse's job can add even more anxiety.
One HR expert says employers need to acknowledge this phenomenon and take action.
"People wonder if their own job is in jeopardy, while worrying about meeting goals and deadlines," says Social Psychologist and Organizational Consultant Dr. Gerri King, president of Human Dynamics Associates, Inc. King spends much of her time visiting and consulting to hundreds of companies throughout the U.S. "I've never seen so much fear in organizations as I do now."
Kings says stress from work and home will undoubtedly affect individual job productivity, but also feed into a larger company-wide problem of workers who aren't at the top of their game.
"We need to pay more attention to survivors who've lost their colleagues, who've been asked to do work that they're not qualified to do and all without complaint," King says. "Workers are willing to rally and do incredible jobs, but when the company is able to hire again and they choose to stay with existing staff to save money, people feel taken advantage of and used."
Four Ways Managers Can Help
So, what can managers do? King has four suggestions to raise morale and help a company and its employees move forward.
- Acknowledge the situation and don't sugarcoat it.
- Appreciate people - not just once, but over and over. Recognition is important and sincere public "thank you" announcements are incredibly helpful.
- Create a safe environment where employees can bring up struggles or complaints without fear.
- Don't hold onto secrets - it doesn't protect your staff.
"A 'don't tell the kids' mentality doesn't work with kids, so why would it work with adults? The fantasy people create is always worse than the reality," says King. "Share information; even if it's just a status update that you still don't know what's going to happen. Constant communication builds trust and allows employees to get back to work. People are far more burdened by the unknown because that's where their focus goes."