More than ever, your employees are worried about their safety — when they leave their families in the morning, or commute into a city, or travel on airplanes — each to different degrees, each and every day since September 11.
Compounding that is the general anxiety about the economic slowdown and the possible magnification of that because of the continuing terrorist attacks on our country.
“Bosses who ignore or rebuff basic needs will see employee commitment and output fall,” predicted David Stum of Aon Corp.'s Loyalty Institute in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal discussing workers' needs in cataclysmic times. He is absolutely right.
What can you do?
Start by realizing that you cannot control what happened. You cannot fix it; you cannot turn back the clock.
“Your world has changed without asking your permission,” says Linda Nash (800/701-9782), author of The Bounce Back Quotient (2000, Prism Publications).
Don't expect employees to return full speed back to normal — at least not for a while. “They may feel unusually tired or listless. Everyone needs to regain their balance. And then they will slowly return to their usual tasks,” Nash says.
Pay attention to the grieving process. “Companies that don't make room for this psychological necessity find it more difficult to move ahead,” adds corporate psychologist Barton Goldsmith, PhD (866/522-7866). “Encourage and support your people to recognize and experience the loss, even if it's the loss that comes from giving up their belief that ‘We've always done it this way.’”
Realize that how people react on the job depends in part on their personalities, their heritage, and even their generation. For example, Carlos A. Conejo (805/494-0378), author of Motivating Hispanic Employees (2001, Multicultural Press), says that in times of stress, Hispanic employees need to be more involved in decision-making and problem-solving. Conejo suggests that managers create open channels of communication with their Hispanic employees.
John Alston (800/200-9225), a distinguished African-American motivational speaker, says that for this group it is important to build camaraderie in the workplace and to reward their performance.
Communicate your willingness to help to those who work for you. Understand that not all employees will need the same level of attention. But most important, try to help your employees in the way they need to be helped — rather than in the way you think you should help them.
Ed Rigsbee, CSP, is the author of PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances, and The Art of Partnering. He can be reached at (800) 839-1520, or by e-mail to EdRigsbee@aol.com. Check out his Partnering University Web Site at www.rigsbee.com.
Six Personality Types … and how to help
People Who Need Support — These people look for a strong shoulder. You can make a big difference by providing, on a daily basis, an emotional and moral compass.
People Who Need Mentoring — These folks respond to guidance. Help them by sharing your successes and failures and showing them the path to improvement.
People Who Need New Challenges — These people may feel a need to share in the leadership role, to give them some sense of control in their lives. Let them head up a new project, or take the lead in learning a new technology, for example.
People Who Need to Reassess Their Priorities — Some employees are taking a closer look at their lives and their priorities. This is common after a critical event. Help them by being open to the changes they select. Allow them to transfer into new positions or to shift their responsibilities.
People Who Need a Cheerleader — In turbulent times, it's important to show your pride in your employees. Cultivate the power of your stars. Many times, with a bit of direction and a pat on the back, they'll be off making things happen.
People Who Need To Be Left Alone — Their behavior, though it might resemble work avoidance, is just a reaction to what has happened. Be sensitive to their issues, and understand that this is how they cope.