When the going gets tough, the tough get going - but hopefully not out of your organization. Most businesses hit a rough patch now and then, and these challenges can spiral into significant problems if employees are overcome with stress and dissatisfaction. Feeling overburdened and under appreciated, members of staff may choose to seek work elsewhere or become disengaged at the moment when their help is most critical. Therefore, it's important for managers to know how to motivate employees when the company is struggling and share bad news in ways that don't cause flight or anger.
In addition to gauging the work environment with surveys and dialog, supervisors can use employee engagement programs to keep staff motivated year round. That way, employees are better prepared to maintain high energy and commitment if the company experiences troubling times. In the event of a challenging period, managers should focus on ways to keep their staff motivated and optimistic.
Sharing bad news
The first step to dealing with tough times is to let team members know the situation. Often, this involves sharing some bad news, such as lower profits, temporarily higher workloads or even layoffs. It's important to communicate these unpleasant realities in a way that keeps everyone well-informed while preventing a fallout of fear and rumors. If it's necessary to lay people off, leaders should make every effort to do it in one sweep, rather than following up with additional cuts, Inc.com recommended.
Start with the truth. People can tell when their leaders are beating around the bush or misleading them, and they'll be more appreciative of upfront honesty than reassurances that are later shown to be false. Managers should be prompt in sharing information with their teams to prevent employees from spreading rumors that are often worse than the reality. It's also crucial during stressful, trying times to be respectful and understanding if workers react negatively or express their frustration. Instead of pointing their fingers and placing blame, supervisors should acknowledge where they're responsible and focus on plans for improving conditions.
Inspiring high performance
Maintaining control of the situation and forming a structured plan for how to handle present challenges can help supervisors retain their workers' respect and trust. Fostering co-worker relationships and recognizing extraordinary contributions can cultivate a positive work environment. If employees are expected to go the extra mile, acknowledging and rewarding their efforts can encourage them to keep their energy high.
"Going out of your way to do nice things for staff members can go a long way," Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman's Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, explained to Inc.com. "Bring them a book they are interested in. Compliment them in front of their families so they feel good. Buy a small gift. The better you make them feel, the more likely they will pass on the cheer to customers."
Bernie Marcus, founder of The Home Depot, told Inc.com that training programs can help inspire employees through difficult times. Although these professional development opportunities are often cut, they can make workers feel like a valued part of the team and empower them with additional skills to apply to their jobs.
Building a culture of courage
Overall, it's important to inspire passion and resilience in workers, particularly at times when fear is the more likely emotion. Forbes magazine emphasized that great leaders create a "culture of courage," especially in market environments dominated by economic competition and uncertainty. Authentic connections between employees and their co-workers, as well as their supervisors, help foster greater engagement and make professional performance more personal. Leaders who embrace and value employees' innovative ideas also embolden them to come up with powerful, creative solutions, the source added.