The dark times are inevitable in any industry. Some organizations get impacted more than others. When such tough times hit, jobs become scarce, morale gets low. Yet, there are a few strategies that can help you as a manager to manage your team effectively through the downturn and emerge stronger.
Do not add to the panic
Stay calm; maintain your composure and professionalism. A distraught manager is the last thing a company would want in times like these. A manager who preserves his/her cool will have a soothing effect on his team and will tremendously increase his stature as a leader.
Have a list of backup projects ready
A downturn is usually a period of reduced activity and use these slack times to get those done. Employees might be fearful of losing their jobs and sincerity might come naturally to them, so it is a good idea to make use of the fear factor in a positive manner.
Also, keeping your team busy serves another purpose – it prevents them from spending too much time on worrying and spreading rumors. An idle mind is indeed the devil’s workshop.
A recession is certainly a time of great uncertainty. However, even in very uncertain times, there will be certain activities that are clearly defined. Focus your team’s efforts on such tasks that are clearly cut out.
Sternly discourage spreading of rumors
An employee who indulges in rumor and speculation affects productivity in two ways – one, he/she is wasting precious work time and two, rumors can spread and affect the productivity of the entire team. This can be catastrophic for morale. Make it clear that such things are unacceptable.
Also, encourage employees to approach you fearlessly for any information. Rumors cannot thrive in a culture of transparency and forthrightness.
Develop team-building rituals.
Crisis often has a bonding effect on people. Use this bonding power to create a loyal and cohesive team.
A team building activity need not necessarily be an expensive outing at a posh resort or five-star hotel. Even a simple thing like having coffee together at the pantry one evening every week can be an excellent team building activity. Don’t discuss work during these informal gatherings.
Talk to your team regularly
At this tough time, the team members, especially working under you expect regular updates and probe more into affairs. Encourage, reassure and motivate. But at the same time, resist the temptation to paint a rosy picture when things are not good. It is a tough balancing act, but has to be done.
Help employees to manage their fears
Help them envision the worst case scenario and prepare backup plans. Explain that while the effect of layoff could be significant, it would not be fatal. In the event that you have to let go of people, do it in a humane, professional and decent manner. Explain the rationale behind the decision to the remaining employees.
Document the lessons you learn in a downturn
Encourage your team to document their activities and accomplishments. This can help them to have a sense of fulfillment about their work and this documentation will also help you present your team’s achievements to your higher management. Meticulous documentation of accomplishments and activities is always good, especially in a downturn.
After all, it is not the end of the world. Humankind has weathered many a storm and life will go on. In the future, talk about “how we faced the tough times together”. A recession is a terrific opportunity for a manager to demonstrate value to his/her organization. It is a good idea to visualize a recession as a shake-up that allows the mentally strong to gravitate to the top.