Downsizing. Rightsizing. Layoffs. Cutbacks. Transformation. Reorganization. It comes with many names but to managers they all mean the same thing: stress.
“We need you to do more with less!” The dreaded mandate sent down from on high has become an all-too-common refrain recently. The term “cutbacks” call to mind terrible images, including layoffs, pay cuts, inadequate technological resources, swarms of locusts and fire-breathing hydra, just to name a few. So it’s no wonder the first mention of cutbacks can send an otherwise fearless corporate manager fleeing under the nearest desk.
Unfortunately, financial cutbacks are not isolated to the corporate world. Higher education has been forced to deal with funding reductions, which create morale issues from larger classes having to be taught by ever shrinking teaching staffs. Two University of Kansas researchers, School of Education Dean Rick Ginsberg and psychology chairwoman Karen Multon, recently studied stress levels in deans and department chairs responsible for delivering repeated financial cuts and found frequent reports of headaches, sleeping difficulty, weight gain and high blood pressure.
Corporate managers have been dealing with the stress of workplace reductions for several years now. What started during the recession of 2008 has recently resurfaced with the instability in the world economy. With so many on-going requirements to improve margins and protect the bottom line, managers are not immune to the same ailments described by academics when faced with the repeated request to “do more with less.”
The professors in the study recommended these three ways to help deal with the inevitable stress from having to repeatedly reduce staff, expenses and overall operating costs:
- Adopt a “can-do” attitude. As the saying goes, whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right. Approaching the cost reduction process with a positive attitude and encouraging your staff during these difficult times will help keep everyone confident in the organization’s long-term vision and goals.
- Take care of yourself. It might sound like hype, but exercising more, eating a balanced diet and getting enough rest are keys to maintaining your stamina and reducing stress during difficult times. Creating a support network at work and at home can help you take care of yourself and reduce stress.
- Keep communication lines open. Maintaining transparency and keeping feedback loops open are critical during times of cost reduction and layoffs. Transparency and regular communication are the best defense against the damaging effects of the inaccuracies spread by the rumor mill and grapevine.
Tackling difficult business decisions is part of being a manager. Cost and staff reduction decisions are some of the most difficult for managers to make. The next time you’re faced with these types of tough decisions, remember that maintaining open, honest communication, setting up support networks and keeping a positive attitude will help you best equip yourself to keep your stress levels down.
Until next time, remember: Take care of the customer, take care of each other and take care of yourself.
Jim Hartigan, chief business development Officer and partner joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.
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