Logically, we know that after contraction comes expansion. But a logical analysis does not mean that people don’t have feelings and that these don’t impact our actions or the quality of our experiences right now.
A 2009 Conference Board survey, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, stated 55% of workers are dissatisfied and unhappy with their work, and job satisfaction is at an all-time low. Workers were more dissatisfied in all categories, including interest in work and job security as well as areas typically included in employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards.
Companies have laid off employees. Surviving employees, while thankful for having their jobs, may also have what is called “survivor syndrome” or “survivor guilt.” In addition to that, employees may also bring their own stressors about the economy, their finances and various family concerns with them to work. This personal context can play a role in how they show up at work and their overall satisfaction.
These are ripples of change that can impact employees’ satisfaction with work. It’s quite common when companies undergo layoffs for surviving employees to need to take on more responsibility previously done by laid off employees. They may work longer hours and more weekends and can easily lead to employees feeling burned out. In some instances, productivity is negatively impacted by layoffs, too.
All this change can be stressful and cause people to feel less motivated, not fully engaged or behave cautiously at work. This might look like general apathy or flatness. Some may go through the motions without putting energy into the task. There may be more careless errors.
Is your company in a situation like this? Do you recognize yourself in any of this?
As a leader you have extra pressure. Employees want to be able to count on you. You know that overworked, unhappy talented employees might look to jump ship as soon as other options open up for them. And yet now more than ever, its time to energize your employees and meet performance and profitability requirements.
Leaders’ actions speak dramatically and have significantly more impact because of your role. Historically, the #1 reason employees cited dissatisfaction and left their work was related to the quality of the relationship they had with their supervisor. You can control how you are with others, regardless of the external challenges. People matter. Relationships matter even more.
Following are six ways you can attend to getting the job done while personally demonstrating you care in a genuine and compassionate manner.
- Be visible. Schedule time to get out of your office and walk around. Circulate in different areas. Say ‘hello’ to people. Be accessible.
- Your presence is important. Look at people and smile. Notice them. See them. Make an effort to have a personal connection with them, even if it is for a moment in the hallway.
- Take time to empathize. When people talk, listen and acknowledge not only what they are saying, but how they are feeling. Most people aren’t asking for you to solve their problems, but to see and hear them. Listening to employees’ issues doesn’t mean you own their problem.
- Sort through employees’ concerns and help them prioritize, if appropriate. Be available to help coach them through this process. Not only will it be useful in the short term but it teaches them a valuable skill they can use in the long term.
- Communicate so employees can trust you. Be honest and forthright in sharing information. Be crystal clear about your expectations. Even when things are not settled its better to acknowledge this and tell people you don’t know—and you will be sharing when more information becomes available.
- When you are making changes, involve employees in recasting new processes, shifting roles or figuring things out. Be grateful for everyone’s efforts and talents. Recognize the hard work that has been done, and speak confidently about together being able to meet the challenges.
As the late, great Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.”