APA Center for Organizational Excellence: Good Company

Resources for Employers

Good Company Blog

Dr. Matt Grawitch: January 2009 Archives

A lot is made during economic downturns, such as our current recession, about the potential for layoffs, cost cutting, a lack of raises and bonuses, and other seemingly logical decisions. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune emphasized the increased level of stress associated with economic turmoil.

Yet, an economic recession may be the best time to consider ways to make your workplace a better place to work.  For example, a recent story in the Wall Street Journal emphasized the use of employee teams and task forces as a way to identify cost savings without resorting to layoffs. Organizations that use such tactics most likely minimize the negative stress, productivity, and morale outcomes associated with a recession. These types of practices can ultimately lead to new ways of thinking about work that can ultimately make the organization a better place to work. For example, now might be the time to spend additional attention in considering a more flexible workplace, thereby improving the work-life balance of employees. 

So, why is it that so many organizations view economic downturns as the time to re-structure or downsize as a primary tactic? Why was the human capital of the organization not leveraged to help the organization avoid that scenario? These are critical questions, especially since economic recessions can result in a shortage of top talent, according to a recent Watson Wyatt survey.

Unfortunately, it seems as though too many top executives feel as though they are supposed to have all of the answers. However, what they fail to realize is that employees at all levels possess knowledge and a perspective that senior leaders don’t possess. They know what actually goes on at lower levels of an organization on a daily basis. They know where improvements can be made and inefficiencies can be corrected. It’s too bad more senior leaders don’t take the time to ask!