Nov 24

How to Care after Downsizing I

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

The signals we are receiving concerning global recession and crisis are ambiguous. Of course, hope is gaining ground after some devastating months. But still, a clear future trend is not to be seen as forecasts are often contradicting themselves.

Working in the automotive industry, supplying Daimler, Porsche, BMW and their big suppliers, especially medium-sized companies have been part of the dramatic downturn of the whole industry. Some of them have not survived.

In the course of the last months, was nothing unusual that companies in the automotive industry had to lay off people and to implement short time work. And even in companies holding a seal like “Top employer for engineers 2009”, grief, fear, anger, depression, and anxiety became parts of the organizational system, which might have been considered unique one year before for its team spirit and solidarity among team leaders and among employees.

In order to re-establish the emotional balance, I opened up a direct communication platform, where I am as director human resources personally listening to concerns, opinions, and needs, which are spontaneously articulated by our employees. This platform is opened every two months and accessable for all employees except the top management.

We simply call it HR-Talk, others may call it supervision. And without turning our line management or myself into unlicensed therapists I know out of the theory of psychotherapy that it is crucial to articulate, to externalize, and process emotions like anger or anxiety.

This is the way systems can be “healed” – and in my eyes it signifies “balanced” – systems like human beings or systems like organizations. This is the way how to find a new, positive resonance again.

“In the process of venting the emotional burden the way to a good social climate, a positive social resonance and therefore to motivation is cleared again.”

In the process of venting the emotional burden the way to a good social climate, a positive social resonance and therefore to motivation is cleared again. And this will remain the case, if, after listening, credible and transparent steps are taken to do everything to keep the way clear in the perception of those who expressed anger and anxiety.

However, I think, we have to go beyond personalized internal communication or intervention executed by team leaders, department heads, managing or HR directors, if we really care after downsizing.

What we are facing now – after or still in the middle of the financial crisis – this is a new reality and what we have to do – if we care – that is to change our beliefs and mind sets about what managerial or employee roles should look like in the future.

And consequently, we as employers are in charge to take responsibility to prepare people and organizational cultures for this upcoming change.

More than ever, we have to open up our organizations to face the eternal truth that all systems are temporary. That means to live with the awareness of constant change and thus of constant and ongoing ambiguity every day. And this might not be easy for people who were born and educated in a welfare society, like the baby boomer generation. Generation Y might be better prepared.

And for managers it means to interact with employees in a setting, which does not promise long term employment security and long term careers with our organizations as the one and only employer over sometimes decades as we have seen it in recent past – - – and this is just because nobody knows if the organization will exist in twelve months or not.

And this is true not only for medium-sized companies, for multinational ones too, as global concerns are affected of this matter as well.

The challenge for leading in such a setting is to keep up a realistic optimism, to remain self-confident and to deal with purpose orientation in a new sense: if the company – in an ambiguous economical environment – cannot deliver a long-term purpose to people, train your employees to find purpose within themselves.

This is the key to stay in a good inner state of mind and to stay herewith motivated. This is the key for balancing the system. And if you permit: to “heal” it.

However, before “healing” can take place a change of attitude of both, managers and employees, is necessary.

How? – To this I will refer in my upcoming blog in 2 weeks.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 at 19:10 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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