Regenerating Spirit After Downsizing
by Barbara Glanz

Send Your Employees a Care Package

Downsizing, re-engineering, and restructuring have caused many organizations to concentrate on improving systems, processes, and the bottom line. In their quest to remain competitive, they have forgotten about the human element in their workplaces. The result is employees who are burdened by fear, distrust, stress, feelings of powerlessness, and a lack of hope.

A recent Roper poll found employee morale and job satisfaction at the lowest point since the poll began decades ago. Employer's lack of attention has created employees who are disheartened and skeptical. To retain valuable employees, management must find new ways to regenerate the spirits of creativity, commitment, self-worth, purpose, and even fun in today's workplaces, and, above all, must rebuild employee trust. Only then will our organizations survive and thrive.

Kenneth Kovach in Employment Relations Today Vol.22, No.2 discusses a study conducted in 1946, 1981, and 1995, in which employees were asked to list ten common work place rewards in order of their motivational impact. Every year the results have been the same. The top three things employees want are:

1. Interesting work;

2. Full appreciation for the work they've done; and,

3. A feeling of being "in" on things.

These motivators form the basis for the regeneration of spirit.

A Spirited Workplace

Based upon first-hand, global experience, there are several common elements in a spirited organization:

C = Creative Communication

We cannot communicate enough in our organizations. Much of the loss of trust in the workplace stems from a lack of communication and a lack of good communication. Research shows that the average adult learner must hear something six times before it is internalized. So the challenge becomes communicating in such a way that it will get the receiver's attention the first time. The more creatively a message is sent, the greater the chance that the message will be noticed and heeded. For example, a senior manager decided that whenever he sends a memo that has news he doesn't think his employees will like very much, he staples a kleenex to it. That gets their attention . . . and makes them smile! It is important to remember that any interaction, whether it is face to face, electronic, or written, occurs on two levels -- 1. the Business Level which is meeting the external objectives for the interaction (the purpose of the interaction or the business to be transacted), and, 2. the Human Level which is all about how the receiver feels about the interaction.

To communicate effectively, you must consider three questions as you send any message:

1. Will it get the information across clearly and accurately? (Business Level)

2. How will it make the receiver feel? (Human Level)

3. Will it surprise the receiver? (Creative Communication)

When managers and employees realize the importance of creative communication and its effect on the Human Level, a new dimension of innovation, trust, and fun is added to the workplace.

A = Atmosphere and Appreciation For All

Charles Garfield says, "In environments in which human needs are acknowledged and talent and creativity are allowed to flourish, employees give their all." What kind of an atmosphere exists in your organization? What does your reception area look like? Your halls? Is spontaneity encouraged? Do people have fun at work?

At Menasco Aerospace Company in Oakville, Ontario, two machinists, Claude Jean and Mike Newman, post interesting and funny items on a bulletin board by their workstation. When colleagues stop to read them and hang their arm over the top, Claude and Mike paint one fingernail red!

After a downsizing or restructuring, most employees' emotional bank accounts are overdrawn, so it becomes essential to find creative ways to give them deposits (appreciation).

Many organizations use "Pass it on" TM cards to encourage one another with sayings such as "The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little “EXTRA” and “Thank you. You made a difference!” Encouraging daily affirmations in an organization, both through formal programs and individual personalized actions, is essential to motivating employees.

R = Respect and Reason for Being

Robert Greenleaf, Hyler Bracey, Peter Block, and John Scherer all talk about servant leadership and the importance of managing from the heart. James Autry says, "Good management is largely a matter of love. Or if you're uncomfortable with that word, call it caring, because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them."

Especially after times of difficult change, leaders must be able and willing to be human -- to communicate from the heart, not just from the head. Respect and trust will be rebuilt when managers are willing to apologize for their mistakes and acknowledge the pain workers have been experiencing because of traumatic workplace changes. Then, and only then, can they begin to work together with a renewed spirit of trust and respect.

Everyone needs to have a sense of purpose to survive, If employees see themselves only as a job description, when the job goes away, so does their self-esteem! They need to recognize their WORK as the way they are making people's lives better each day. This work is not dependent upon any job. In every interaction, we have the CHOICE to create either a minus, a zero, or a plus experience for that person, depending on the way we treat them.

Minus = discounting the person, making him feel less important than us or our organization

Zero = just taking care of the Business Level only

Plus = making the person feel special on the Human Level, often surprising him/her by caring 

Creating a "plus" in every interaction we have can become a personal sense of mission for each manager and employee. Peter Block says, "The choice we offer people is what creates accountability." I encourage people to add a personal signature to their work. One special example is a Downs syndrome grocery bagger who puts a signed thought for the day in every customer's bag. As each person in the organization discovers his personal mission or purpose, a new spirit will thrive.

E = Empathy and Enthusiasm

As employees and managers begin to understand the importance of the Human Level in all their interactions, they will begin to listen not only with their heads but also with their hearts, and healing can occur. Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand and then to be understood." To encourage a new spirit of teamwork after a restructuring, some organizations encourage employees from different parts of the company to change jobs or shadow one another for half a day.

Francis Likert said many years ago: "If a high level of performance is to be achieved, it appears to be necessary for a manager to have high performance goals and a contagious enthusiasm as to the importance of those goals." Do your managers and employees have a contagious enthusiasm about the importance of their work and the difference they can make in their daily interactions?

Enthusiastic people celebrate occasions, such as the reaching of goals, and they celebrate one another. As you focus on what people CAN do, not what they can't do, you will see a new commitment from within, not from without.

This new spirit of sending CARE packages will impact productivity and profit throughout your organization and will give employees the hope for which they have been longing!

The Top Ten Ways To Regenerate Spirit

Here are Barbara’s Top Ten ways to regenerate spirit in an organization after downsizing:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Hold daily 5-10 minute staff meetings and at least once a week a 10-15 minute "state of the company" message from a senior manager. Remember honesty and the "rule of six." End each session with an inspirational "thought for the day."

2. Encourage fun in the workplace. Research shows that the most productive workers have at least 10 minutes of laughter each hour.

3. Get out on the frontlines. Spend at least 30 minutes every daytalking with employees. At least once a month surprise them with a treat: at the end of a stressful period, give each employee a Nestle's Crunch bar saying, "Thanks for helping out in the crunch!"

4. Model appreciation. Let employees know they're valued and theirwork is important. Adopt a personal strategy--for example, give one verbal appreciation every hour and one written thank you per day.

5. Learn something about each employee on the human level --show interest in their hobbies, their families, where they grew up, where they like to go on vacation. Then remember to refer to that each time you see them.

6. Ask employees' opinions. Use informal conversation, more formal surveys, focus groups, and small group meetings to help employees feel a part of the decision-making.
7. Constantly remind employees of the mission and vision of the organization. Help them can feel pride in their work and its purpose. Always ask yourself and them, "What is our work here? How are we making people's lives better?"

8. Support grapevine meetings. Empower every employee to be able to call a grapevine meeting whenever the rumor mill overflows. These meetings are led by a senior manager and held that same day. Tell the unvarnished truth--they can handle it!

9. Give employees permission to grieve the past and then move on. Some organizations hold ceremonies to symbolically let go of the past. Others create "time out" places and "stress-buster" rooms to help employees deal with their emotions. Above all, be human. Let employees see your feelings, too.

10. Celebrate often. Find reasons to celebrate--national smile week, completing the budget process, making a monthly goal, the local sports' team victory. Hold a "Good News" hour for 15 minutes every week to share positive things in employees' lives and work. 


Barbara Glanz is the author of CARE Packages for the Workplace – Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work, (McGraw-Hill 1996). It is available in bookstores and by calling 1-800-CEO-READ. Barbara is a professional speaker, author, and consultant in Western Springs, Illinois, and the President of Barbara Glanz Communications, Inc. She speaks on the topics of Creative Communication, Building Customer Loyalty, and Regenerating the Spirit in Your Workplace. You may reach her at 708-246-8594; Fax 708-246-5123. 

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Copyright 1997 by Barbara Glanz. All rights reserved.

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