Recessionary Intelligence - Feed Those Still On Board
Monday, 30 March 2009 13:02

The Other Corporate Recessionary Reflex...

It is a reality and a constant source of anxiety for working Canadians and Americans that people liferafts, one with survivors, the other emptyare among the first “things” to go amid cutbacks and belt-tightening. It is understood and par for the course during a serious economic crisis.  However, another reflexive tendency on the part of management, is  to decrease or eliminate training and conferences, the latter having played a significant historic role in raising morale, communicating with employees and, yes, providing training and healthy “food for new thought”.

The New York Times and The Ottawa Citizen ran articles this past week on what not to do with and to a corporate population during rough times, unpredictability, changing markets and strained production. Don’t, each article emphasized, cut back on training. Rather, increase it to prepare employees for new positions or new job descriptions as markets, consumer needs and/or the client base as a whole, shift in attitude and spending habits. While the customer makes new and different semi-permanent or permanent lifestyle decisions, everything related to the product or service, including its delivery or positioning, will change. Employees and managers alike have to keep their eye on the compass and learn to and adopt emotional and cognitive foundations that allow for on-the-spot demands and change.

The articles further implied the necessity of not just teaching but also tightening, as in bonding and providing assurances to dwindling and nervous corporate or organizational populations. Unfortunately, now when we think “conference”, we think over-indulgence and snazzy, super high-end backdrops. However, this subtext in the resistance to spending a dime, can hurt employees more than it can induce the presumed pat-on-the-back from the public, stock holders, board members or governments. Employees are traumatized (and less productive or open to change) when they see and feel the absence of their work associates and friends. They are almost equally as traumatized by anything close to “axing” at other corporate locations. Moreover, when lay-offs are in the air, employees tend to become fixated on whether he or she is next, rather than on their work.

Humans in Crisis – The Importance of Connection

There is no worse time to take away opportunities for employee and managerial integration, mutual support, and the presenting and sharing of meaningful knowledge and information. Like survivors of what feels like a sinking ship, having been sent afloat in the last and only life boats, employees need to meet and learn together. They need to connect interpersonally, share their fears and hear encouragement, honesty and empathy from the top. In learning together, they particularly need to learn how to be ready for anything. They also need to be assured with respect to the symptoms of intense uncertainty that include erosion of relationships, anger and grief as well as somatic symptoms such as sleeplessness, change in eating habits, headaches, stomach cramps and more.  Anything less than a well-managed and fiscally responsible proceeding of the norm, feels punitive and results in further individual isolation and diminished will.

Photo: Reuters


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