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Management clinic

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Being honest with staff is vital during reorganisation writes Jenny Rogers in response to a reader's question.

Question: With our council facing unitary reorganisation, people are concerned about job losses, which is a possibility. I am concerned about staff leaving rather than face uncertainty. What can I do to reassure people and keep them focused on their work, rather than what may happen in the future?

Answer: The easy thing to do is to try to protect your staff through false reassurances, says Jenny Rogers, Associate at Management Futures. Other bosses take the path of stoutly ignoring the whole problem and hoping that it will go away.

The best tactic is the one that may appear counter-intuitive. This is to tackle the issue head on. Call a special team meeting and spend the first 20 minutes asking people what their concerns and questions are. You may find that there are significant numbers of people who are not that bothered. These will be people who see work as a job, not a career, or who know that they are highly employable and ready for a move anyway.

Others will indeed be anxious and may turn this anxiety into anger aimed at you. If so, understand that you are not the target and don’t be provoked into responding defensively.

Tell staff everything you know, distinguishing facts from the areas which are still up in the air. It is likely there will be far more ambiguities than certainties. Tell people this, and that living with ambiguity is what all of you, including yourself, have to do.
Promise that you will make this meeting a regular event.

In the meantime, you, and the rest of the organisation, should be commissioning workshops on job searching, CV writing and job interview techniques. These events should convey that as individuals we, not our organisation, are responsible for our careers. Preparing for the next move is something we should all be doing, even if we are ecstatically happy with our current roles. Research demonstrates that feeling you are in some degree of control is essential to keeping the stresses of change at bay.

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