Beware How We Treat Our Employees during a Slowdown . . . Employees have Elephant Memory . . .

As kids, we were always curious to know ‘do elephants really have a strong memory’ and ‘do they really remember / recall their experiences throughout their life?’; many of us believe it’s a YES because we have witnessed how the ‘Chain around their legs’ makes them domesticated.
Humans are also no different from them, we grow up to be what we are based on our past experiences.
The last 18 ~24 months hasn’t been easy for either the employers or the employees as the organizations have initiated quite a few steps to cope with these tiring times.
While some of them are quite justifiable & ethical but at the same time quite a few of them are irrational which have caused more damage than doing any good.
Nobody debates on the ‘tough calls’ as they are the need of the hour but I guess most of us would agree that the approach adopted to get these done are something which could have been more sensitive and careful. For arguments sake, how do we pass an unpopular decision’s information (Organization or through someone else) or who passes the information (Leadership or someone unknown) etc.
For example, it would probably be easy for an employee to go back to the families and share sensitive news like losing jobs, pay cuts, freeze of bonuses, no perks etc. in a planned & proactive manner at his / her pace, rather than reading it through newspapers first and thereby not being ably equipped to answer family and friends when probed.
If we have to summarize Employees experiences, they would range from ‘shocked’, ‘disbelief’, ‘feeling cheated’ to ‘feeling completely helpless’ etc. None of the above experiences are something which anyone would like to recall or cherish. So what has triggered these experiences, predominantly we can consolidate into three reasons.
Leadership Vacuum
Employees have always believed that their leaders would lead from front, in normal times or in crisis. But many of them woke to rude reality that these leaders were either too shy to discuss these matters in open or be available to clarify on the actions initiated as the crisis grew. ‘Leadership based on convenience’ is something which has never been and will never be popular among employees.
 Lack of Maturity in Policy Management
To add to this confusion & chaos was the HR outlook towards People Policies. For example, what is rational to have all those weekend ‘Biryani’ parties when times were good or take away something precious & critical like late night dropping by ‘taxi’ in name of cost rationalizations.
The Way We Communicate, Matters
When we can communicate in an open hearted one to one discussions why do we take the route of emails which are of non-Personal mode. We all have experienced that non-personal communication only heightens the crisis and don’t act as softener because invariably they leave the interpretation of message to the reader and don’t give an option of clarifying.
Cutting cost is a vital component of survival and there is no denial to it. But cutting conversations is something which we all can avoid for sure. Now is the time for more ‘Open Houses’ and ‘Town Halls’ than ever. Now is the time for Open Hearted Discussions and Confessions. Now is the time for investing TIME rather than divesting time away from employees
Where is the WAR CRY?
Critical times lead to confusion and chaos and the best way to resolve them is to build momentum and singular focus among all the employees. The best way to do so would be by identifying one Big Target / Goal and build a war cry towards it.
Lead by Listening
Leadership across the broad from the CEO to Managers have to spend time with the employees not so much in explaining the rationale behind the decisions but in listening to them and clarifying the apprehensions and misconceptions they may have.
It is important & critical to note that the anger is not so much about ‘what’s happening’ but ‘the way’ it is being handled. The anger may subside if we only agree to be transparent to them and treat our employee as ‘rational & matured adults’ and not with kid gloves.
Believing that they have ‘short memory’ and they will forget and forgive us as soon as we announce the next biryani weekend party is definitely a bad idea.

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