Staff Engagement

Roles & Responsibilities of Managers

Focus on rebuilding your team: Be visible; Reinforce business reasons for changes; Talk about your vision of the future; Revisit your unit’s strategy and action plans for coming year(s); Be positive and yet don’t invalidate their concerns; Communicate new information immediately; Tell them if there’s no new information and be willing to say “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.”

Continue the process of change management.

Recognize that the workplace will be disrupted for a while and allow employees to discuss the layoff as much as they want. Talking helps relieve the anxiety, and while the discussion may seem disruptive now, it will assure quicker recovery.

Protect those employees who seem distressed by the layoffs. Remember some employees may be more vulnerable than others because they may have loved ones or friends who are being laid off, have been laid off before, or have other personal reasons that intensify their reactions to this national economic crisis. The injuries inflicted by a callous remark or lack of support will worsen their situation. Anticipate variability in reactions by employees and don’t judge. Some employees will be severely traumatized by the layoffs and others relatively unaffected.

Reactions may include anger at the University or the state legislature, mobilization for political action, or fear that a friend or family member are facing layoff, or denial that the economic crisis will have an effect on their lives.

Provide lots of information. Giving fresh and relevant information about the layoff situation and dispelling rumors is extremely helpful for those who are traumatized. Be visible and available to answer questions. Allow for group meetings to provide information, dispel rumors, and to hear how people are responding. It is very helpful to know that others are experiencing the same reactions.

Acknowledge that a layoff often compels employees to re-evaluate their life priorities, including careers.

Managing Your Team Through Changes at Work

Managers may have to cope with their own reactions to the layoff and may not be able to respond appropriately to employees until they have taken time to handle their own reactions. If one of your employees is laid off, the workplace will be disrupted.

Change in the workplace has become a way of life. As a manager or leader, you are challenged to maintain performance under chaotic conditions. Your workforce may become confused, resistant, and disheartened. Excessive stress is not only damaging to your mental and emotional health, it is also damaging to your physical health.

Here are some helpful references to help identify, understand, manage, and minimize stress for both you and your staff, during challenging transitions:

  1. Remind Employees of Your Employee Assistance Program. If your organization has an employee assistance program, encourage employees to use it. These programs can help if people are experiencing personal, emotional, or financial problems.
  2. Conduct In-house WorkshopsHire speakers to present workshops on topics such as reducing stress and managing finances. These are topics that are particularly important to employees today.
  3. Instill Optimism and HopeNow, more than ever, employees want be hopeful. They want to know the truth about how their organization is faring and also what it is going to do to meet its current challenges. Senior management must be upbeat and visible to employees. Instead of hiding in their offices, they need to spend more time telling employees about how the organization is going to survive and even thrive. They must enlist the energy of employees with practical strategies that instill hope.
  4. Celebrate SuccessesEmployees are thirsty for good news. Share positive information such as new prospects, new customers, sales from existing customers, successful launches of new products, additional company funding, favorable letters from customers, or favorable reviews about products.
  5. Show Employees You Are Still Investing in Their Personal FutureEmployees want to know that even during difficult times, their organization views them as important assets. When business is slow, it can be an ideal time to train them on new skills and retool them to better face upcoming challenges.
  6. Revisit Your Compensation Program for Some EmployeesMany employees are paid contingent on what they produce, their billable hours, or what they sell. The strategy works very well when business is good, but when workflow is reduced or customers are just not buying, these employees make less money. To keep them in the fold, you may need to alter how they are paid. For example:
  7. “For production employees paid by the number of pieces they produce, consider paying a fixed living wage until business picks up.
    For the sales force, consider temporarily increasing the base pay percentage or increasing the draw they can take. My colleague, John Haas, an expert on incentive compensation (, suggests providing incentives to the sales force for desired behaviors that will eventually lead to sales when business picks up such as meeting with A customers and telephone calls to B and C customers.”Provide More Recognition to EmployeesDuring stressful times especially, employees want to know that their hard work is respected and valued. Supervisors need to make certain that they are providing employees with verbal recognition. A pat on the back and words like, “keep up the good work,” “you’re doing a great job,” and “thanks for your hard work” can go a long way to relieve employee stress.
  8. Promote Work Life BalanceRemind employees that during stressful economic times it is important for them to be supportive of their families. Urge them to use their vacation time and spend time with their families. Also, encourage them to try to plan to do something fun every day.
  9. Conduct Fun Activities in the WorkplaceWhen the time seems appropriate, try some low-cost fun activities to change the atmosphere like a potluck lunch, dress down day, Halloween in June, noontime talent show, karaoke after hours, or a checkers tournament.