Expert Perspective from Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board
There can be advantages to a recession, though not for the laid off worker, of course, or for the manager delegated the difficult task of making those layoffs, or even for the retained workers needing to do more work in the same workday. But the company as a whole can benefit from tough economic times.
Grahall’s Michael Graham says: “A recession can compel companies to restructure, forcing difficult decisions that give rise to better competitive positioning in the next cycle.” Essentially, how the company responds to economic challenges – redefining work processes, realigning competencies, etc. – may help determine not only if the company will survive in the short term, but whether it will flourish in the long term or be left on the side of the road.
According to Robert Schiller, this is evidenced in our current economic outlook. In his October 3, 2010 article for the New York Times (The Survival of the Safest) Schiller writes: “…managers often lay off more people than necessary, to ensure that they don’t have to repeat the ordeal anytime soon. The remaining workers must work harder, taking on some of the work of their missing colleagues, and productivity rises. (The economy today shows both increasing productivity and increasing corporate profits.)…. Moreover… employees who hold onto jobs often suffer “survivors’ guilt.” They are genuinely pained, experiencing empathy with the less fortunate.” This may have implications not only for the company, but for the broader economic recovery as well.
According to Grahall’s Joe Davidson, “Survivors’ guilt is something that leadership needs to be aware of and deal with.” A company cannot take the work for 50 people and put it on the backs of 35 and expect those 35 to feel good about the outcome or think that they “won” because they didn’t get laid off. That will just add “burn out” to “survivor’s guilt.”
Davidson adds that the most effective approach to dealing with this isn’t through morale boosting programs, but rather through successful job restructuring. Then communicate the “whys and whats” of the restructuring and the vision for its success, so that employees have something on which to focus besides feeling burnt out and guilty.
Real long term improvement comes not from simply reducing payroll cost but by continually reevaluating and restructuring the way a company does business, and getting everyone on board.
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