“Spend eighty percent of your time focusing on the opportunities of tomorrow rather than the problems of yesterday.” Brian Tracy
Most people associated with the oil and gas industry have been affected in some way by the lower oil prices in the last year. Cost constraints, cutbacks, downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, realignment, redeployment or layoffs. Whatever you want to call it, losing your job is a very stressful situation. And, almost as stressful as losing your job is watching the reductions in staff happen all around you and wondering if you are next!
The stress related with this constant threat of job loss can have significant productivity issues with the staff who remain. People who are concerned about losing their jobs will lack motivation and productivity. From the prolonged, hushed conversations at the coffee areas to updating resumes and LinkedIn profiles to applying for jobs and contacting recruitment agencies. All of these activities take away from quality time spent on tasks that make the business money.
Having led organizations through periods like this in the past, I quite often get asked by leaders how they should deal with this stress. There is no simple answer but here are some suggestions that will keep your employees’ morale and productivity higher;
- Be sensitive to the stress that the workforce is going through. If your group is affected by layoffs, make sure that they are done in a way that personal humiliation is minimized (i.e., don’t march into cubicles with an army of HR and security and then escort the staff member to an exit.) Handle things as discretely and professionally as possible.
- Do not let your organization suffer through “death by a thousand cuts”. If staff must be cut, do it in one step rather than spreading the layoffs out over days, weeks or months. It takes a little more coordination and planning but it is best to get it over quickly so the remaining staff can begin their “healing” process.
- Have an “all-employee” meeting following the layoffs and be as open and candid as possible with your staff. Explain what happened and why and be sensitive to the worries and concerns that the remaining employees will have. Answer their questions as openly as possible.
- Discourage employees from “fear-mongering” or adding to the stress by gossiping or telling war stories about what just happened in the cubicle next to them!
- Encourage staff not to worry about things they cannot control. They don’t control the economy or the price of oil. They don’t control what management is doing and what decisions they make. It does not do any good to worry about these things.
- Finally and most importantly, encourage employees to take care of what they do have control over and do an excellent job of it. They control the scope of work they have been tasked with. Encourage them to focus on this and to do this work to the best of their abilities and as efficiently and productively as possible.
Discretion with parting employees, candor with remaining employees, and having employees focus on scope that they control and doing this scope to the best of their abilities is the best advice that can be given during these trying times.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Alexander Graham Bell