Changes in the workplace are no longer the exception to the rule. The outsourcing of services, downsizing, or reorganizing are commonplace.
You’ve heard the buzzwords for change: RIF, restructuring, rightsizing, reengineering and others. To employees, these words mean furloughs,
outplacements, reassignments and having to do more with less. These, in turn, translate to stress for your employees and for you as a
People generally do not like change. Change is fine for a vacation, but change which impacts important areas of life leave people
feeling anxious, unsettled, depressed, and angry. Employees who know their jobs are over may experience the emotions of loss; denial,
fear, insecurity, and apathy about the future. For those who believe that what they "do” is who they "are”, this will be a particularly
The following is a list of some signs that signal your employees are suffering from organizational stress:
• Increased difficulty performing tasks
• Making safe, rather than optimal choices
• Inappropriate anger or hostility
• Increased or acquired use of cigarettes, alcohol, antidepressants or antacids
• Repeatedly talking about their personal concerns with anyone who will listen
• So, how do you maintain morale and productivity in today’s ever-changing work environment?
Be a Role Model
Some people handle change better than others. Luckily, the skills required to cope with distress can be learned. Managers can start the
learning process by demonstrating a good, positive attitude. Consider the following:
A clear sense of purpose helps you and your employees redirect efforts in line with the current changes.
"The Serenity Prayer” works well in dealing with the need to control. "…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Try to view change as an opportunity to learn new skills and to grow. Have this attitude yourself and you will communicate it to your
Make sure your employees feel that they are part of a larger whole - a team working together.
Communication is Key
Lack of communication is the surest way to alienate or anger your employees. Open and honest communication can go a long way in keeping
your employees comfortable in their jobs. Give people as much information as possible, as soon as possible. Even if the information is
unpleasant, share it. Be accurate and clear.
Set up and carry out regular departmental meetings. Such meetings should be a forum for all employees to voice their concerns.
Start off each meeting with a few comments of your own. Let people know they are free to speak about their grievances, questions, or
complaints - but without personal attacks. Sometimes people simply want to be heard. Try to avoid a gripe session by asking for solutions
to the problems that are raised. No one person should be allowed to monopolize the conversation. For those who may be reluctant to voice
their concerns publicly, offer a time to discuss issues one-on-one.
If you have a large organization, you may want to set up a hotline for information dissemination. An E-mail system or other on-line
system may work very well. A newsletter would also be an effective way to get information out to people. No matter which system you use,
give people the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers. Try to keep the messages positive, but do not promise more than you can
Co-workers who socialize with one another will have a stronger sense of camaraderie on the job. Host a luncheon once a month or by
offering snacks in the afternoon at break time.
Talk to your employees about career planning. Whether they will be staying at your organization or moving on, talk to them about their
career goals and how to achieve them. In a downsizing situation, if you or your organization can afford to do so, offer employees career
transition assistance, buy out plans, or encourage them to seek professional outplacement counseling. Such opportunities help soften the
blow that unemployment brings.
When new policies require new behavior or demands, reward employees for their appropriate behavior. Rewards can vary greatly from bonus
plans to "comp” days to public praise. The reward does not have to be great to reinforce a message of commitment to the employee who will
reciprocate with commitment to you and your organization.
Perhaps you have a new procedure or a new chain of command. Whatever it is, don’t leave it to your employees to figure out. Make the new
policy, procedure, or plan known in a clear and concise manner. Preventatively, hire the right people from the beginning. When filling
positions, look for people who have the qualities that match the goals and objectives of your organization. Make sure your new employees
receive an orientation that includes explaining the goals and objectives of the company. To be a good team player, your employees must
first know all the rules.
Take Care of Yourself
You are going through the same changes that your employees are going through and it is important to take care of yourself so you will be
at your best.
Consult with Others
Take advantage of everyone’s problem solving skills. You don’t need to have all the answers.
Show your trust in your employees by allowing them to help you when you need it. This will also give you a break.
Nutrition is very important during times of stress. Reduce caffeine, alcohol, sugar and tobacco consumption.
If possible, suggest or create a place to exercise at your organization. Walk during lunch.
Get plenty of rest
Stress consumes a great deal of energy!
Talk to friends and family
Keep in perspective the importance of those people that are close to you.
Keep a balance
Look beyond the details and survey the "big picture” for your own sense of direction.
Call your Human Resources Department or EAP directly to:
• Conduct workshops
• Facilitate group discussions
• Consult with you on how to cope with your specific needs
• Speak with you or any of your employees one-on-one
• Offer outplacement counseling to your employees
• Assist in the layoff process
Written by Brenda Campbell; Edited by Mary S. McClain