Tough times require tough decisions, and the social expenditures budget at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis has taken a hit.
But while the budget has been reduced, the number of fun events has actually gone up in recent months, says Anne Meyers, the firm’s founder and managing partner.
“The fact of the matter is you need things like golf outings,” Meyers says. “It’s important to be together. The more stressed everybody gets, the more they need to be together. A couple of people last year suggested that we not do our holiday party. It made no sense to me.”
A recession forces many hard decisions to be made. And a golf outing or a pizza party doesn’t erase the sting felt when employees are let go or drastic budget cuts are made. But you can’t let your employees be consumed with negativity if you expect to see better days.
That’s often easier said than done.
“My experience is that your audience hears what their experience and their attitude lets them hear,” Meyers says. “If they have confidence in the leadership, they’ll walk away thinking that you are trying. If they don’t have confidence in the leadership, they are going to hear whatever they are going to hear. I’ve had the experience of giving a message and hearing six different messages coming back to me of what I said. It doesn’t matter what I say.”
The best thing you can do is keep your employees looking forward and keeping them busy doing things that have value.
“The worst thing in the world is for someone to come to work and have nothing important to do,” Meyers says. “You really need to have something that makes you feel like you are contributing.”
Start at the bottom of the list with things that ordinarily you wouldn’t have much time to give any real thought to.
“Refining our sources of communication, making sure we are maintaining communication with our clients,” Meyers says. “We have been talking about fixing our address book and taking out redundancies. We’re making sure we have our e-mail lists together. You know enough about human nature that often what happens when you’re not busy, you still don’t do those things. Now is the time.
“If we have less work to do because our clients are only doing what they have to do and not the things that if business was stronger they would be doing, we need to use that time to increase marketing efforts and to fix some of those things that we don’t pay attention to.”
Of course, giving people something to do doesn’t erase worries and concerns any more than leisurely activities do. But it can help boost morale, and that can make a difference.
“The way this country and each one of us is going to get through this is by having a can-do attitude,” Meyers says. “I can’t go into a room and say, ‘Don’t worry everybody, we’re never going to have job cuts. We’re never going to cut health benefits.’ Tell them there is a plan, and if there is any pain, we’re going to share it in as equitable a way as possible. I won’t go into a room and say I have it figured out. All I can do is tell them we’re working on it.”
And in working on it, you need to make sure you’re taking steps that will position your company to bounce back quickly when things turn around.
“Make sure you don’t consume muscle,” Meyers says. “You want to burn the fat. Make sure every decision is made for the future strength of the company.”
How to reach: Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, (216) 831-0042 or www.meyersroman.com
Don’t be afraid
Fear is a tough thing to conquer, especially when one’s job and livelihood is on the line. Anne Meyers believes there is only so much a leader can do to ease the concerns of employees who wonder if they could lose their job in a tough economy.
“Nobody is immune from the news of daily cutbacks and no matter how healthy we are, people will worry,” says Meyers, founder and managing partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis. “All we can do is tell people to focus on their role and what they do.”
When people ask questions or express concerns, try to listen before you speak.
“The first rule is to listen and the second rule is don’t judge,” Meyers says. “That’s hard. When an employee is saying, ‘Well, I don’t know why we do this,’ there may be a number of reasons. It’s hard to not say, ‘Well, here is why,’ because if you listen, you may find out why it aggravates them. You don’t have to agree with them. But the listening part is very important.”
Beyond just listening, you can look to your people for their thoughts on the way your company is maneuvering through the tough times.
“Be honest with them,” Meyers says. “Don’t be afraid to tell them, ‘I need your help and I need your input and I need you to tell me what you think, even when I don’t want to hear it.’ That’s a difficult thing.”
When tough calls need to be made, you can go a long way toward earning support by sharing the pain.
“When you make a plan, if the first expenses you cut are the things that affect people at the bottom of the pay scale, I don’t think you can ever communicate any kind of security,” Meyers says. “If there is any pain to be experienced, it has to be at the top.”