Being a great leader is easy when the economy is healthy and your organization is profitable. Being a great leader is not so easy when your organization is struggling, you’re laying off employees and you need to reassure the rest who are worried about losing their jobs.
The reality today is that many executives will oversee workforce reductions in response to the need for cutting cost, reorganization or other competitive pressure. While a leader might prefer to quickly move past job losses, doing so without addressing the needs of the workforce could cause serious performance setbacks. Staff members who are fearful of losing their jobs or overwhelmed with the prospect of taking on more responsibilities can quickly become demoralized, stalling productivity.
Here are some ways that resilient leaders can guide their workforce past fear and toward success:
1.) Be visible, be honest and be clear about your expectations
Executives who have directed layoffs should inform all remaining employees about the situation as quickly as possible and, preferably, face to face. Effective leaders explain why such a difficult decision was required and acknowledge the impact on staff. They provide an opportunity for employees to express their feelings and they inquire about their concerns. They also steer attention away from fear and uncertainty and toward a renewed purpose by describing clear, achievable, short-term goals (where the organization is going and how he or she envisions it’s going to get there). Early victories are particularly important in difficult times, therefore it’s beneficial to emphasize results hoped for this month rather than next year.
2.) Provide opportunities for employees to take constructive action
Since feelings of helplessness deplete morale, it’s helpful to involve employees in problem solving and productive activities. Some leaders use advisory groups or focus groups, others circulate surveys or hold informal meetings to solicit ideas. They use the feedback they receive to develop change strategies, acknowledging what they learned and keeping employees apprised of the status of their ideas and requests, as well as outcomes. Keep communicating to build buy-in. Engaging employees in conversation demonstrates respect, which helps them feel more secure and builds morale. Astute leaders therefore create opportunities for discussion. They consult staff members regarding what information and what types of communication