Leading Employees In Times of Crisis, Fear2:35 PM EST Fri. Oct. 12, 2001
Many American workers have been emotionally troubled by the attacks on Sept. 11 and recent workplace cases of Anthrax diagnoses in Florida and today, in New York City. Management consultant, Greg Smith, says the way an executive manages workers now in these difficult times could shape the future of the company.
Smith, author of Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention, says managers have a critical role today in how they treat employees, which can resonate into the future.
"One person e-mailed me and said his employer fired him because he failed to show up for work the day after the attack," Smith states. "What a terrible thing for an employer to do!"
For Vinny Dispigno, his leadership sets the example for his employees.
"I still go into the city on a regular basis--and I'm holding meetings there and doing business as usual to show everyone that we're confident," says Dispigno, president of Vizacom, based on Long Island, N.Y., with offices in New York City.
Below are Smith's tips for how executives can best manage employees in these uncertain and fearful times.
Employers who act appropriately and provide a supportive workplace will go a long way toward improving retention and loyalty.
People respond differently in crisis situations. Expect to see difficulty in concentrating and remembering, and an increase in absenteeism and requests for sick leave. These are normal responses. Sincere expressions of concern and help with simple, daily tasks will go a long way toward improving productivity.
Information is powerful and can be considered a source of energy for employees. Meet with staff members at all levels to express grief, as well as to promote available resources and other services. Keep Web sites updated, and provide a place for people to watch or listen to the news at work.
Managers should be equipped with the resources, information and authority to assist employees. Unless you work in a small organization, avoid centralizing this responsibility. Many companies have alienated their workforces by giving one person the sole responsibility to approve schedule changes and sick leave time. Centralizing causes employees to face long lines and unreturned voicemails, which leads to frustration, alienation and anger.
Don't underestimate the importance of your personal leadership style. In times of crisis, a "heroic" style of leadership becomes important. Managers should attempt to compartmentalize their personal fears and feelings. Follow the examples of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.