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September 30, 2009 | Volume 3 | Number 8
September 30, 2009
By Matthew J. Grawitch, PhD and Larissa K. Barber
By now, it comes as no surprise that we are still in the midst of a recession. A recession typically affects all companies within a given industry or set of industries, so it is difficult to truly make your company recession-proof. It is also ill-advised to suggest that a psychologically healthy workplace automatically creates padding from the recession.
In reality, a psychologically healthy workplace is as prone to the negative outcomes associated with an economic downturn as non-psychologically healthy workplace. The key difference is the preservation of employer-employee relationships, which may help boost employee morale long after the recession.
The benefits of working in a psychologically healthy workplace during good times, though, set the bar much higher during bad times. In other words, a psychologically healthy workplace produces benefits because of the employer-employee relationships built on trust and support.
Cutting budgets, freezing salaries, downsizing or taking any other corrective action is very likely to have a negative impact on the psychological health of the workforce. These actions will most certainly have a negative impact on the employer-employee relationship, even when extreme actions are necessary.
Psychologically healthy organizations may feel trapped when considering ways to respond to recession-related performance problems. Doing nothing may drive the organization into bankruptcy. Patting people on the back and telling them it will be okay is also not likely to do much in the long term.
Much has been discussed regarding open and honest communication, transparency and other ways to reduce the loss of trust that comes with cost-cutting initiatives. Those are all great suggestions, but to that list we would like to add a few more:
If you would not currently classify your organization as a psychologically healthy workplace, then the five suggestions we included above may be a good place to start. Of course, our suggestions hinge on a sense of trust between employees and the employer, which takes time to develop. When coupled with open and honest communication, these suggestions can put you on the path to cultivating a workplace that better promotes the psychological health of workers.
If you would currently classify your organization as a psychologically healthy workplace, our five suggestions can be tactics that may help to keep employee engagement as high as possible during this difficult period. A focus on employee relationships now, even without lucrative bonuses and raises, may mean the difference between retaining and replacing top performers once the economy recovers.
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