CutbacksDownsizing.  Rightsizing.  Layoffs.  Cutbacks.  Transformation.  Reorganization.  It comes with many names, but to managers they all mean the same thing:  Stress.

“We need you to do more with less!” The dreaded mandate sent down from on high has become an all-too-common refrain recently.  The term “cutbacks” calls to mind all sorts of terrible images, including layoffs, pay cuts, inadequate technological resources, swarms of locusts, and fire-breathing hydra, just to name a few.  So it’s no wonder that the first mention of cutbacks can send an otherwise fearless corporate manager fleeing to cower under the nearest desk. 

Unfortunately, financial cutbacks are not isolated to the corporate world either.  Higher education has been forced to deal with funding reductions which create morale issues from larger classes having to be taught by ever shrinking teaching staffs.  Two University of Kansas researchers, education dean Rick Ginsberg and psychology chair Karen Multon1, recently studied stress levels in deans and department chairs responsible for delivering repeated financial cuts and found more frequent reports of headaches, sleeping difficulty, weight gain, and high blood pressure.

Corporate managers have been dealing with the stress of workplace reductions for several years now.  What started during the recession of 2008 has recently resurfaced with the instability in the world economy.  With so many on-going requirements to improve margins and protect the bottom line, managers are not immune to the same physical ailments described by academics when faced with the repeated request to “do more with less.”  The professors in the study recommended these three ways to help deal with the inevitable stress from having to repeatedly reduce staff, expenses, and overall operating costs:

  1. Adopt a “can-do” attitude.  As the saying goes, whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.  Approaching the cost reduction process with a positive attitude and encouraging your staff during these difficult times will help keep everyone confident in the organization’s long term vision and goals.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Something we’ve recommended for years here at Orgwide.  It may sound like hype, but exercising more, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest are keys to maintaining your stamina and reducing stress during difficult times.  Creating a support network both at work and at home can also help you take care of yourself and reduce stress.
  3. Keep communication lines open.  Maintaining transparency and keeping feedback loops open are critical during times of cost reduction and layoffs.  Transparency and regular communication are the best defense against the damaging effects of the inaccuracies spread by the rumor mill and grapevine.

Tackling difficult business decisions is part of being a manager.  Cost and staff reduction decisions are some of the most difficult for managers to make.  The next time you’re faced with these types of tough decisions, remember to maintain open, honest communication, set up support networks, and keep a positive attitude to best equip yourself to keep your stress levels down.

Until next time remember, Take Care of the Customer, Take Care of Each other, and Take Care of Yourself.

1Leading Through a Fiscal Nightmare, The impact on principals and superintendents, By Rick Ginsberg and Karen D. Multon, Phi Delta Kappan

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