Do you remember the iconic job interview scene from the movie “3 Idiots”. When asked to explain his consistent low marks in the engineering exams, Raju replies – “Fear is not good for marks”.
Yes, fear is not good for marks.
Fear is not good for performance at work.
Fear is not good for happiness in life.
Why we need to discuss fear in the context of work and future of work. There are a few reasons for this.
- In the first 5 months of 2022, 18 Indian start-ups including the likes of Unacademy, Ola and Cars24 laid off more than 9000 employees. Since then, most leading companies have had to cut jobs
- Globally too, we have witnessed mass layoffs: Better.com, Stitch.fix, TomTom, StartTek, Ford
- Hiring freeze across some leading organizations: Coinbase, Uber, Meta (Facebook)
- Elon Musk’s letter to Tesla employees, which should have remained an internal communication, was leaked all over social media. The letter asked employees to return to office for a minimum of 40 hours per week or quit. Tesla also announced plans to cut 10% of their salaried staff
- Some prominent business leaders and the World Bank have warned of a recession in 2022
Fear is not good for employee morale
Layoffs. Mandatory return to office or lose your job. Economic uncertainty after a couple of bad years due to the pandemic.
Most if not all would be worried. And some of us would be scared. There’s fear:
- Fear of sudden job loss
- Fear of pay cuts
- Fear of rising inflation and financial hardships
- Fear of travelling back to office and spending 2 to 4 hours in commute
It’s not good. For the employees. For their happiness and mental health. And, for the overall work and life ecosystem.
What can you do about this?
The problems – layoffs across industries, supply chain disruptions, a meaningless war and lockdowns in China are beyond your and my control. So are the solutions.
We can’t address the problems. But we can address the fear.
And when we decide to address the fear, the solution is simple enough – direct, transparent communication.
If you own a business or a part of the executive leadership team, this is time for you to directly talk to your employees.
- Small team – direct group conversations.
- Large team – Email to all. Have a group meeting with senior and mid-level managers. They then cascade it to all the employees.
What you need to talk about?
- Short term business outlook for your company. Are there any concerns regarding cash flow? Are you planning any cost cutting measures?
- Has the company planned layoffs? Immediate or in a few weeks or months
- If Yes, who will be impacted: sales staff, IT, contractors, customer service
- How does the company plan to help if someone is asked to quit – severance package, recommendation letter, job references in the industry, public message by the company CEO on forced employee layoffs
Whether good or bad, this is time you reach out to each individual – employees and contractors.
And if you do not have a policy on employee layoffs, time to get one. Document the what, when and how of the layoff procedure including the severance package and other promised benefits.
Addressing the fear is often more than half the battle won.