Don’t dodge the important issues

Jobless men keep going

Everyone’s feeling down at my office. I keep overhearing conversations about redundancies. The company is paying out more than it is taking in and this is not a sustainable situation. People are worried about their financial security and their career progression. It is at the front of everybody’s minds.

The company’s annual meeting was last week.  A day of nauseating PowerPoint presentations by the board members.  I have very low expectations of this kind of event, but this year I was expecting some answers. I was hoping to hear the board’s perspective on the redundancy situation and get some clarification about all of our futures.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen.  

The board dodged the issue.  Redundancies got a token mention at the beginning, the classic euphemism: “we’re facing challenging times..”, but the speech segwayed into something else immediately.  In previous years there has been an open question and answer session, but this year all the questions were submitted in advance and chosen by a board member.  He seemed very keen to show that the questions were real, getting the submitter to raise their hand, however only a single question about redundancies made it through which was given a brief evasive answer.  The rest of the questions were disgustingly self-serving: “what does success mean to you?”.

The waters are just as muddy and employees are still uncertain about their futures.

Redundancies are a part of life.  The only thing that can be done to make the situation tolerable is to be completely open and honest with people. The sooner decisions are made and communicated, the sooner people can begin planning for a major shakeup to their lives.

Many companies are going through “challenging times” at the moment.  The economic situation has taken a lot of people by surprise.  Experienced managers may never have lived through a time when things were this bad and therefore don’t know how to deal with it.  If you are a manager and you are called upon to speak to your employees, please don’t take the same nebulous approach described above.  Don’t pretend that everything is fine.  Don’t waste everyone’s time painting a rosy picture of the situation.  Engage with the issues that are at the front of their minds.  You might not be thanked for it but you will stifle worry and resentment.

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