Stop Layoff Rumors to Maximize Productivity

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With reports of layoffs in the news, your employees may be feeling uncertain. Anxious feelings and distrust can create a toxic work environment, but the good news is that there are steps managers can take to maintain morale and reassure workers. Here are ways that you can keep workers productive and morale intact.

Keep Communication Open
"In times of uncertainty, supervisors tend to be more tight-lipped about how a company is performing and its future plans," says business consultant Ed Sexton. "The irony is, they need to be informing employees as often and probably more than they usually do." If the outlook is positive or just stable, let people know. Hold an informal meeting to tell them the "State of the Union" and allow them to ask questions. The key part of the meeting is to communicate a clear vision for the future. When workers see a solid plan in place and can see their roles in it, it minimizes ambiguity and anxiety. "Don't skirt around the issue of redundancy as if it couldn't possibly exist," says Sexton. "Let people know that you've already reviewed positions and addressed the issue of redundant roles."

Tie Incentives and Rewards to Company Performance
In an uncertain economic climate employees tend to feel more isolated. One way to foster feelings of camaraderie and reassure them is to tie incentives and rewards into your organization's performance. "Rewarding individual achievement works, but when people have a collective sense of accomplishment you generate a lot of goodwill," says Sexton. He suggests contests that offer company-wide, uniform rewards when certain goals are met. This gives employees direct stock in how the business is performing. Even if numbers fall short, the important thing is that you are tying employees into something bigger than themselves.

Being Fair
Many things may seem outside of your control, but there is one area that you have control over that can make or break morale. In tumultuous times, studies show that management practices that engender feelings of inequity among employees are especially harmful. "You often have an every man for himself attitude in an uncertain economy, and even perceived unfairness makes workers suspicious," says Sexton. In evaluations and appraisals, managers should be objective and unbiased. Always use established criteria to judge employees on performance, and don't allow irrelevant influences to cloud your assessments.

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