Years ago in my Big 4 consulting days, I did a good bit of work in Merger and Acquisitions – specifically in Merger Integration work. I often times led teams in defining the new combined organizational and operational structures which often meant we decided who stayed and who had to go. Once a merger is announced, the only people that get excited are the shareholders and top executives. Employees, middle managers, and even customers tend get worried about how this will impact them. My role was to ease this anxiety and my governing mantra was two fold:
- Take very good care of the folks leaving because it sends a powerful message to the folks staying.
- Over communicate with those staying.
I can’t seem to open a newspaper, listen to a radio station, or watch the news without hearing of similar anxiety… not being driven by a merger or acquisition, but by the malignant economy. The anxiety of the folks being laid off is unparalleled since not only are they being laid off, but they also have no place to go to and with significantly less in savings. In addition, survivors of layoffs are just as anxiety-stricken since the general unspoken rule seems to be ‘stay low and do your job.’ So at a time when there has never been a more dire need for ingenuity and collaboration in the workplace, everyone seems to be on the down low.
Managers and leaders have to understand that this is the time to practice the two mantras above. Older models like MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around), brown bag lunches, weekly conferences calls, or staff meetings cascaded throughout the organization are just some ideas for over communication to have more ‘touch’ with employees. The elephant is in every room, so start meetings with five minutes of discussion over how to support each other and your organization.
I feel that 90% of the impact here is in simple listening and engagement, even when no definitive outcome or action item is reached. Emotional Intelligence has never been more relevant to leadership than today. View each person you come in contact with this week as a person that you have the ability to inspire, motivate, listen to, and learn from. Know that the contagious negative endorphins are greatly compromising innovation and creativity when it is needed most and remember that only good healthy, positive interaction can dilute those endorphins. Research shows it takes five positive experiences to dilute a negative one. Be one of those five for everyone at work this week.