Back in 1990 I joined a world – wide professional services firm in the UK. It was my first step into the private sector ( I'd previously worked in Education, then the Civil Service ) and it seemed a bit of a risky move. But then I thought, this is a huge international firm, it must be quite a safe environment.

Anyway, within a couple of years, we had a recession and there were cutbacks, redundancies and uncertainty amongst the people who worked there.

So I know what it's like to work through a difficult period, much like the one we're in now. And, if you manage other people, there are things you need to consider during a time like this.

Here are a few key tips.

1. Don't expect people to be " grateful they've got a job. "

This is something I've heard in the past. One Partner I used to work for said something like this. He was surprised, after a round of redundancies, that the people who were left looked demotivated and unhappy. He thought they’d be pleased because they'd survived.

It doesn't work like that. People are in shock after seeing friends and colleagues leave, sometimes abruptly. They may even suffer from " survivor syndrome " and feel guilty because they're still there. Or they may just feel very vulnerable because they know, if it happened to others, it could happen to them.

If there have been redundancies, everyone will feel demoralised and uncertain for a while. This leads on to the next point.

2. Work even harder to encourage and motivate people.

It's likely that many people's performance levels will actually drop because they're under stress or working in a difficult environment. They need extra encouragement and support at this stage.

Make sure you spend time giving positive feedback and helping people if they’re struggling. This isn't a time to be over critical, it will only have a bad effect. Morale and performance are closely linked, so do what you can to keep morale up.

Motivation can take many forms ( and, at the moment it's not likely to be financial ). Encouragement, recognition and a sense of belonging can be motivational and these are all approaches you can use.

2. Keep people informed if you know what's happening. If you don't, keep quiet.

In a time of uncertainty, people need accurate information. If you know what's happening ( and you're not sworn to secrecy ) then tell people. Otherwise, rumours will spread and they're usually destructive as far as morale is concerned.

On the other hand, if you don't know what's going on, say so. But don't add to the rumour mill by offering your own thoughts if you really have no idea. Don't be one of the ones spreading disinformation.

3. Don't be a moaner.

You need to be a role model. Do your work as well as you can, be as positive as you can ( even if you're feeling anxious yourself ) and don't join the moaners who are
saying that everything's dreadful.

I'm not denying that things may indeed be bad, or that organisations don't often add to the problems by the way they handle these situations ( they often do ). But you
won't help matters by publicly joining in the complaining. If you have a valid grievance, speak to the relevant people about it. Don't just stand around sniping, that sets a bad example.

4. Focus on your work and your goals.

Be clear about what you're trying to achieve and focus on doing your work to the best of your ability. Take satisfaction in doing a god job in difficult circumstances.
And help others to do the same.

5. Don't ignore the importance of training and development.

Yes, I’m a trainer, I would say that, wouldn't I? But it's true.

In some organisations, training is the first casualty when there are cutbacks to be made. But many businesses at the moment are trying to avoid that, recognising that they need well - trained and motivated people to get through the recession and to come out the other end in a strong position.

Also, training and development are ways in which people can be helped to feel valued. They’ll also feel that something positive is happening, that there’s a future to work towards, if they're learning new skills.

So try to keep some training going on, or individual coaching or mentoring.

These are just a few of the ways in which managers, at any level, can play a role in leading people through difficult times.

Author's Bio: 

Alan Matthews is a trainer, coach and speaker who helps people to be successful managers and leaders - people who can bring out the best in themselves and those around them. For more articles and a free copy of The Book Of 100 Management Tips, visit