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Keeping Morale High During Organizational Downturn

What can be done to improve employee morale during a downturn phase in an organization?

I think it is important to be honest with your employees. Much anxiety and work place miscommunication/misinformation can be eliminated through honesty. Even if the news is bad, many employees prefer to know where they stand instead of guessing. Having been laid off twice in a 6-month period. The first time my entire department was eliminated, although performing well, when a new university president took office and decided our services (continuing education was no longer apart of his vision for the university. The second time, I worked for a non-profit organization which lost nearly 50% of its funding after 9/11 when donors pulled their funds to give to the United Way. In each case, the executives knew what was happening but failed to inform the employees until the ax dropped out of nowhere. I am watching my husband's company do the same thing now. He is an upper level manager, but has been told not to say anything to his employees. Everyday he goes to work knowing that in a few days these people will be laid-off and he can't say anything. For some of these people, both spouses work in the family and if they knew what to expect, they could prepare. Employers and managers must have respect for their employees. And respect begins with honesty.

Any change in orginizational structure can be a scary thing in light of our economic times. I feel that the best thing to do is to carry on as you have always done :-). Smile a lot and don't complain.
In everything there is always a little humor, find it and use it, it really helps to calm people down.

I agree, I think that management has to be honest with their employees. So many people are loseing there jobs today and it would be good to know if there is a possiblity that we may, it could help prepare us, we can start looking for a position that would take the place of the one we are going to lose. On the other side if they tell us to much, it could start a panic and that would not be good. They could lose good people for no good reason. So it is a catch twenty two,
I guess that each of us has to look at the big picture related to ourselves and not others. WE have to do what is best for our circumtance, and our positions with the company.

(From my past experience of being laid off from a large corporate company)--My supervisors and the office manager knew at least a year ahead of the lay off, but didn't formally announce the closure until it became closer to the date. Although some may feel this is an act of dishonesty on their part for not informing the staff sooner, I will say that they gave the staff the tools and the momentum to move on after the announced closure. They conducted a resume/career training course (3 weeks) for ALL employees and held career fairs in-house. Also, general sessions were held addressing concerns of retirement, severance packages, etc. Most importantly the camaraderie and team spirit did not waiver in the end.In fact it increased because our days were sprinkled with fun events, such as a marathon game day with a BBQ. This transition took place for about 3 months, giving us time to soak in the news. And this occurred while daily operations continued to take place--work volume lessened as we came closer to the end of course.

So to sum up, I would think that employers should be diligent about preparing their employees with useful career tools and training for what may occur after a downturn, continue to maintain the team spirit and camaraderie, and have some fun worked into daily operations to keep employee team spirit up. Hopefully this formula may create a high level of morale during an impending downturn.

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