May 21, 2018

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Managing Your Department During a Corporate Crisis

It is 11 pm; you have finally put up your feet and turned on the nightly news. The first words you hear are the painful concerns of hundreds of employees, as they are laid off in yet another corporate crisis. Do thoughts of relief flood your mind that at least it is not your company? What about the subsequent anxiety that will interrupt your sleep? What will happen to your career path, benefits, and your daily bread? Will you be next? Is this what corporate America will continue to put on the plates of our nation's employees?

Unfortunately, the answer appears to be a resounding, "Yes". How do we attempt to prepare for such events? Can we prepare? The answer also appears to be, "Yes". Imagine that the day comes and within a five minute, closed-door conference, you discover your entire department has been eliminated. The higher-ups are sorry, but it is out of their hands. You head to your car with a panic attack, tears streaming down your face and wondering how you will tell your staff of 35 employees that there are no more paychecks. By that point, you will have already needed the tools of corporate crisis management 101.

The first management lesson is to recognize that as a manager your first priority should rest with assisting your staff with the transition process. In doing this, you will additionally be taking steps to ensure your own future success. Keep in mind that a corporate crisis will be a significant learning experience for a manager and if handled effectively will increase your own value and marketability.

These five critical steps will enable a smooth and successful transition for both you and your staff.

  1. Book of contacts. Build a book of professional and personal contacts that will help as you network for a new career opportunity. Encourage your staff to do the same. The content should include contact names, phone numbers, physical addresses, e-mail addresses, companies and titles. This resource should be a staple throughout your career, not only in a time of crisis. Periodically touch base with these contacts.

  2. Management communications. Set a clear line of communication with your supervisor. Inquire as to all internal employment options for both yourself and your employees. Ask for specifics on the time frame for termination of the positions. Request a clear package for all severance information. Also, request information regarding restrictions for employment with competitors or clients.

  3. Keep your door open. Talk to your staff and be their information magnet for any questions, thoughts or concerns. This is critical in curtailing the gossip train that emerges during a corporate crisis. Be patient and understanding to fears or hostility from employees. Schedule daily or weekly meetings as needed to disseminate the proper information and to encourage discussion. Help them to consider all of their employment options. It is critical to be both a positive role model during this difficult time.

  4. Outsourcing services. Immediately inquire if job search services, mock interviews, resume writing and career coaching will be provided to employees. If this is not in place, request the services from the human resources department or your supervisor.

  5. References. What are the company policies on providing references for employees including management? Are you willing to provide references once you have left the company? Identify a management ally whom will provide a reference attesting to your management skills, work ethic and general employability. Encourage your employees to contact all references for an approval prior to using their name. They should also inquire as to the type of information their reference is willing to disclose.

In the event that a corporate crisis rears it's ugly head in your career, do not panic. Managers have a unique responsibility to continue managing with a smile on their face and a no-fear attitude. You will find that with positive leadership, employees within a dying department can rise to the occasion, as they seek out new opportunities in their careers. So if that lay off memo ever crosses your desk, simply hold your head high, stand next to your staff and follow the five steps to overcoming a corporate crisis.

- Sheri Callahan, President Horizon Headhunters, LLC 803-606-3650
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