Turbulent times cause anxiety and rumors. In an employment situation, people worry about their jobs and look for information that will confirm their situation one way or the other. When employees don’t get that information, rumors are often created to fill the void. And rumors can have a negative effect on employee morale and productivity, furthering a company’s woes. This is the time for corporate leaders in organizations of any size to be open and positive with employees.
An effective leader keeps employees informed of what’s happening in the market and of the decisions that will affect the employees. An effective leader provides employees with a forum to air their concerns and grievances in a constructive manner. That leader also works to involve employees in the decision-making process as partners in many business areas. Management and employees can work together on meeting challenges, such as searching for ways to cut expenses, enhance productivity, and improve customer service.
These types of interactions can help employees overcome the feeling of being powerless with their world shaking around them. Employee knowledge and power can also help keep the rumor mill from going into full production.
Unfortunately many corporate leaders fuel the fire for rumors by not sharing information with employees or by providing a “glass half empty” analysis of the market and a company’s situation. Jim Clemmer, head of the management consulting firm The Clemmer Group, tells the story of a CEO who was seen by his staff reading Clemmer’s book, Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance. What the CEO didn’t realize was that he was holding the book so only the word “firing” in the title was visible. Within hours, the CEO’s staff had spread the rumor that he was planning a layoff.
A big part of being an effective leader, says Clemmer, is the ability to give people hope, to help them feel that they can meet the challenge they’re facing on some level. And that effort starts with the leader’s own hope.
Before talking with staff, leaders must deal with their personal worries and focus on the positive aspects of their situation. With that focus in mind, and with open communication, the leader can then help guide employees and the company. But that’s not to say a leader should sugar coat the situation or avoid facing tough challenges to present a positive front. The goal should be to focus on what could be, and not on what is, to help weather the turbulent times.