Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Today's Fear Factor

Your employees are afraid. Fear is one of the most understandable emotions when times are tough, when they see colleagues being laid off, when they hear about budget cuts, clients leaving, and salary freezes.

Fear for one’s job leads to one of two behaviors: a) head down, keep to yourself, no boat-rocking, do your work and go home; or b) new energy, volunteering for assignments, idea-generation, visible activity, worry about productivity.

In the first case, the thinking goes, “if I’m not visible, maybe I can hide and escape the next round of layoffs.” Frankly, in most firms (even the largest) people cannot hide; they should not even try. These are exactly the people who will be the first to go.

In the second case, their fear stimulates activity. They want to be more valuable so you “cannot” let them go. And, more valuable to them means more visibility, asking for work, suggesting new ideas, doing their own new business prospecting, being highly billable, etc.

Some of these people have awakened too late and it’s a shame that it takes “fear” to motivate them. You’ll easily notice these new high-energy people. This will be new behavior for them.

Others have always behaved like this. They are the positive performers. They are normally fully billable, people want to work with them, clients value them, they attract and help win business; they are your stars.

But, recognize that your “stars” are fearful too. While they know they doing a good job, they wonder if that will be enough.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged for how they are feeling. But your stars need more. They need encouragement, positive reinforcement and a true understanding of their role and future in the organization. When times improve – as they will – these people will be most vulnerable to the lure of the new job. You must retain your stars to grow and prosper.

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