Managing during a crisis

managing staff

It’s important to know how to manage the morale of your team and the ups and downs that will come your way during the current pandemic.

Nothing like this has been seen before which means we’re in unchartered territory. How do we recover? How do we plan for the future? How can we support our employees when we don’t have the facts ourselves?

During economic low points, businesses are likely to downsize and rationalise their operations in order to make it through. Some of these changes will surely be up to you to make – if not, to deliver and explain to the rest of your team.

What Can You Do?

Managing people during difficult times can be a tricky task, however following tried-and-tested strategies, you can help to keep your team and your business on track and moving forwards.

 Communication is Critical

If you’re a manager trying to navigate through rough waters, the one thing you want to avoid is fighting against the rumour mill. Uncertainty can cause stress for many people as well as anxiety, worry and fear. It is said that people would rather face risk than ambiguity. We’re creatures of habit and when that habit is disrupted, we look for something to fill the void – even if the information is false or grasped out of thin air. If this is not dealt with swiftly, rumours can spread dangerously through the organisation.

The best thing to do is to keep your staff in the know and listen attentively to them.  Not every manager is a good listener but the good news is that this is a skillset that can be taught.  Even no news can be worth reporting. Be open about the state of the business and the plans for the future (even if there aren’t any yet). Attempts at playing things down or sugar-coating can build distrust among your team.

Never put off relaying negative news. Withholding information or avoiding addressing things directly makes it look as if you have more to hide. Try addressing your whole team as one and allow them to ask questions. They will appreciate being kept informed and will leave with a greater sense of understanding of the situation and respect for you as their manager.

Although it is likely that your team may experience disappointment during this time, allowing negativity to persist is unproductive and will greatly impact the morale and mood of the team. Try to steer the conversation into something more positive, or at least something that is within their power – and yours – to change. This will help your employees to feel a sense of control that they’re likely lacking right now.

Morale is a Must

Morale is one of those things we talk about and might not really appreciate how vital it is to the functioning of a team and a business. Morale is the confidence and enthusiasm of your team, and it greatly impacts employee relations, productivity and trust.

You want to focus on keeping spirits high without avoiding the difficult conversations that may need to be had. Morale is often impacted by stress. It is when employees are stressed that they worry about their job security, they might doubt the managers capabilities and their work suffers as their time and energy is devoted to over-analysing the situation.

You should know – and also make sure that your team know the warning signs to look out for if an employee is suffering from stress. Here are some of the most common signs:

  • Not concentrating and making mistakes
  • Increased incidence of mistakes and work errors
  • Poor decision making
  • Frequency and content of communication deteriorates
  • Productivity falls
  • Increased incidence of mental health issues

If your company is one that is remaining social through virtual group activities, you might identify a team member isolating themselves from these.

If you notice these signs in any of your employees – or maybe even recognise them in yourself- then it is time to involve Human Resources to make sure the stress they’re experiencing is managed and resolved. But for your team as a whole, how can you truly boost morale in the midst of a crisis like the one we’re facing now?

Here are some suggestions…

  • Many surveys show that employees are willing to take pay cuts in exchange for more time off. If you’ll need to trim budgets, consider asking your staff if they would be willing to take this course of action. Of course, days off right now aren’t exactly going to go towards holidays abroad, but as working from home can be challenging for many, this could be an attractive option. If you’re colleagues are struggling to work from home, my guide to remote working shares my best tips for staying productive and focused.
  • Although many of us around the country are working from our homes, we tend to stick to our 9-5pm day as closely as possible. Consider being more flexible with the times that your employees can work. As long as they’re present for online meetings and video calls, allowing them to work best to their schedule at home can increase efficiency and productivity, bearing in mind that some employees may be caring for children or have other commitments and priorities to uphold. Increasing the length of lunch breaks can also prove effective as it gives people enough time to get some exercise, fresh air and relax before returning to work with a clear and focused mind.
  • Now more than ever, people need to feel valued. They want to know that they have a purpose and that their efforts are worthwhile. Remember to show people that they matter. Give praise and rewards and do so in front of the rest of the team to give them the recognition they deserve. Remember the power in a simple thank you – it can make someone’s day and lift their spirits. Give your employees greater opportunities to make a difference to the company and have an impact by inviting them to share their opinions and ideas with the group.

Focus is First Concern

Your team will be facing many distractions right now. Physical distractions whilst working from home, and emotional ones such as the worry for their jobs and the future amidst such uncertain and unprecedented times.

So, how will you ensure that your employees stay concentrated on their tasks?

  • Lead by example. A team looks to their manager for guidance. Stay focused yourself and uphold the standard of behaviour that you wish to see in them. Give them a model to replicate and a level to aspire to. Focusing on your work and showing that you’re in control of your tasks might also give hope to your team and calm their fears.
  • Goal-setting. Right now is a time when people need to be kept busy. If they’re not, minds will wander, and people might find themselves over-analysing and worrying about the crisis we’re facing. Make sure you set specific tasks to achieve with strict deadlines. People crave order and routine – especially when they feel they lack control over their own lives. Give them something real to devote their attention to.
  • Help them to remember that although we’re facing challenging times, things will not be this way forever. Busts are often followed by booms. The cycle goes on and one. Without dismissing anyone’s feelings or undermining the situation, talk about the fact that this will eventually be over. Be hopeful and keep perspective.

Where do you go from here?

Being a manager is not always easy and being a manger during Covid-19 can be even more challenging.  You not only need to look after yourself, but you also need to look after the needs of your team.

You will need the knowledge to identify the early warning signs of stress and the ability to attentively listen to your employees.

Hard – no!  Easy to implement – yes! Do you have the skills to do this?  Don’t worry – get in touch with me for a free consultation.