Lets begin with the obvious. Today's workforce is hurting.
They are exhausted from increasing workloads, anxious about their jobs, dazed by the rapid changes affecting every aspect of work, and staggered by the terrorist threats to our nation.
Most of us feel dizzy from the ups and downs of our erratic economy. The stock market is like a roller coaster, continuously jolted by each sharp turn. Few of us feel financially secure. And fewer of us know what to do with this feeling of powerlessness.
The Last 20 Years
U.S. workers have been facing an increasingly uncertain future, with downsizings, purges, mergers and organizational failures. And each time a once successful organization such as Kmart, Enron, and Global Crossings goes Chapter 11, it exacerbates our feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. American workers are becoming confident about one thing: there is no longer any job stability in any field.
Communication has become increasingly technological, impersonal and one way. We now email and voice mail as alternatives to talking directly to each other. Getting a live voice or seeing someone in person has become the exception; not the norm. I even remember that not too long ago, people complained about too many meetings and too much interaction. Now people reminisce about the good old days when we sat down and talked to each other. Times have changed.
Job turnaround is becoming faster and faster as we move into the "I need it now" generation. Faxes, emails, cell phones, computers and copiers have made it reasonable for people to expect same-day responses and output. Again, I remember when it was acceptable business practice to use regular mail. Now we think in terms of the same day, same hour, same moment.
Ten Ways Management Can Help
What should today's managers do to help besieged employees? I'd like to suggest the following strategies:
- Acknowledge the uncertainty and the extra demands on your employees.
- Listen to employees' concerns. Ask how you can help them manage their work. Be supportive.
- Be open about job security issues. Be honest and direct.
- Communicate clearly. Keep your people as well informed as possible.
- Encourage shared decision making. Let your people feel they have influence over their job situation.
- Help with work distribution. Be sensible with your expectations.
- Never take for granted long hours and extra effort. Show appreciation.
- Be sensitive to the survivors of downsizings. Help them manage the increased pressures and demands.
- Have a heart. Don't encourage people to work beyond a reasonable level. Try to protect their personal time and wellness needs.
- Train your managers in leadership skills. Today's managers have to be skilled interpersonally if they are to
support and help their people.
Anything you can do to make the highly demanding, unstable work atmosphere feel safer and more manageable will help on two levels:
People work harder and smarter when they feel good about their organization and their role within it. And, a happier workforce will outperform the competition.