Whether you’re an active investor who craves the thrill of the open market or someone who is simply dutiful in contributing toward your 401K every two weeks, a global stock plunge can inspire feelings of helplessness and anxiety. After 2009, if a global stock plunge does not cause you to feel helpless and anxious, you may be a candidate to take up base jumping or crocodile wrestling. There are frequent openings I hear.
But assuming imminent disaster is not your idea of fun, last week’s tumble in China probably had you looking over your shoulder. You try to do the right things and make sound business decisions, but forces beyond any one person’s control can still have a detrimental effect on your financial outcomes. It’s that way not just with investing but also the world of work in general.
The good news is we have more power to mitigate uncertainly in our offices than we do on the trading floor, and leadership communication is the key.
When employees are left to guess about the health of their company or the security of their jobs, work quality often suffers. Many workers view silence from management as a sign of dissatisfaction from management. Why try so hard if it doesn’t matter? Product and process changes that appear without warning can also lead to questions about a company’s goals, plans and direction and how the employee fits into that scheme. Frightening team members into working harder seldom leads to increased productivity and reduced turnover.
Some executives try to do the right thing by holding periodic status updates with staff members, but this approach can still convey a message of Them (management) versus Us (employees). Standing at the end of a boardroom table and informing employees about decisions that were already made on their behalf is preferable to a silo of silence, but it’s still not the two-way communication that alleviates uncertainty.
Good leadership communication involves gathering feedback from team members on an ongoing basis, seeking feedback throughout all levels of the organization (you never know who is going to come up with a game-changing idea), and helping people to know that their contributions matter. You may even consider establishing a rotating employee representative to participate in business planning and strategy sessions.
There are plenty of other ways to enhance employee engagement and reduce anxiety through good leadership communication. Be creative! Better yet, ask your employees for ideas.
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