Question: Small changes managers can make for creating stability in the organization

We are a 600 employee Telecom organization. All the changes in our industry (falling landline usage, etc) and a new ownership has left our workforce nervous about their careers.

As a senior manager myself, I am looking for some practical advice on how I and my fellow managers can make small changes to reassure our teams. Changes which are not drastic, there is enough of that already!

We have an awesome pipeline of innovative offerings, some of which is already showing real growth.

I want to help reduce the temporary feeling of uncertainty and maybe, even get the staff excited about our future together.

7 Expert Insights

I think you need to get some background about the new owners.  Have they ordered large layoffs even though their business was profitable?  Do they view employees essentially as costs (to be cut) or as core assets? If their behavior demonstrated that they see people as a core asset rather than as a cost, the owners must make that very clear to employees, i.e. Skilled, productive, innovative employees will grow the business and we shall all prosper as a result.

1.  The best outcome would be for the owners to say:  We are not going to downsize as a way to show profitability.  It's a two-way street:  as you make a commitment to this organization, we will make a "Conditional Commitment" to you.  You have a job here as long as your performance is very good, we need your knowledge and skills, and we can pay you.

2.  Emphasize the positive.  Make every new solution known; recognize even small triumphs and their creators.  Post large photos of effective leaders using your products and describe how customers have profited from these actions.

Being passionate and truthful, keep adding to the visibility of successful problem solving and those who created that outcome.  Make the bottle half FULL.  This will create the enthusiasm of "We are a winning organization".  

Cut off negative rumors by addressing them directly and Focus on the organization's strengths.

3.  Focus on the positive, successful individuals. Even without a promotion, enable them to lead, innovate, create...and win.

Never take any individual for granted.  Create relationships with every employee and encourage employees to do the same.  Talk with people.  Ask questions and listen hard to the individual's answers.  Know people's names, the work they do, and the basics of their family.

As a boss, do not try to become an employee's friend.  But, to the extent possible, achieve a relationship that's friendly.  In this way you're telling every individual you know him or her and they matter to the organization.

People support what they help create.   Have you involved your people in decisions that affect their lives?  Most execs don't, but you seem pretty smart and probably have.  However, if you haven't, invite them to get them involved with the planning, looking at the environment, helping them to understand what the organization is facing and how the need for change is critical.  This will get them excited about their future, understand why the changes are important, and reduce resistance to change.

There was a great video on this that I saw this morning - the President of Seton Hall University talking about implementing change.  Here is the link.

Next, pls remember that people don't care about what you know until they know that you care.  If you are engaged and transparent with your employees, if you tell (and more importantly show) them that you care, that you are all in this together, you build trust.  And trust is the lightswitch that will either get them to follow through changes or resist them.

Lastly, communicate.  Be transparent.  Communicate again.  This can't be stressed enough.

If you do these three things, you'll (more than likely) be successful.   :)  

I've a few things on my website that might be of help - feel free to check them out (

In order to have a more engaged and satisfied workforce, allowing your employees to have input with regard to the projects is a plus. By allowing your employees to generate ideas, create the ideas and produce business breakthrough results, they actually have an emotional connection in the work they put out. This in-turn giving your employees this opportunity to use their potential strengths, skills and talent also has them create and produce greater results since their reputation would show on the product or service of their results.

Even with a task or assignment that is given from the top, there is an uncertainty especially where employees can get stuck on creating the end-result. In a creative and innovative organization, employees can rely on their interactions and creative thinking skills to help take them to complete the work on a cooperative basis. The team works together. Whereas, in a traditional workplace, the employees need to constantly ask the manager every step of the way for approval and wait for them wherever they are stuck for a decision to be made. In the unconventional workplace, employees typically can make decisions themselves as they had input in the initial project assignment.

I second Drumm's votes for transparency and engagement. Both moves require confident leadership. It's tempting in a declining market to sugarcoat the truth in hopes of retaining your good people. Strong leaders will instead acknowledge "reality" while also encouraging the team to contribute their creative talents and energies to turn things around or innovate into new markets and possibilities.  

A good "gut check" is when an employee comes to you with concerns about her future in the company/industry. That would be a great time to say something like: "I would understand if you decide to seek employment in a more stable industry. In telecom and high tech, there is more risk and more reward and it's not for everyone. One thing I can promise you is that if you stay, it won't be dull!"

Bottom line: employees crave honesty and integrity from their leaders, not false promises, assurances and manipulation. The challenges in your industry can be a rallying cry for teamwork and cohesion, or a source of deterioration and every-man-for-himself thinking.

I'd concur with the comments suggesting the need for you to be transparent about your current situation, as well as to share information (as you receive it) about pending changes. You'll want to give your team a line of sight and help them understand how external industry shifts and/or internal organizational changes can impact them directly -- to the best of your knowledge.

I'd also agree with the sentiment to engage team members to solicit their input so they feel they are part of the process. To that, I'd add that you'll want to remain accessible and open to create an atmosphere of trust that enables team members to feel comfortable raising their concerns and sharing their innovative ideas with you.

It's also important that you and your fellow managers recognize that different team members will have different levels of comfort with and reactions to pending changes; for example:

* Some team members will be comfortable with change, and will more easily adapt to changing dynamics, roles, and/or responsibilities;
* Other team members will be less comfortable, and will want more guidance about what is the logic or reasoning for any proposed changes;
* Others will be comfortable with change, as long as it happens efficiently and leads to results;
* Still others will be most concerned with how any proposed changes will affect their team members.

Therefore, you and your fellow managers will want to adapt your communication styles accordingly to build greater rapport and sustain team morale.

The first order of business is to create (if it has not been done prior) a Vision for the organization.  This is the grand idea of where the organization is headed in the future.  Employees can then choose to buy in or not.  If they are excited about the perceived future, their fears will be allayed.  If they do not agree, or buy in to the future of the endeavor, they can plan their next career move.
This appears to be a Strategic Planning and communication issue - from my vantage point.

Wow. Such great insights already! My fastest/simplest assist is I second the advice of Drumm, Neal, Mike, Colette and Alan!

And then I'd like to add a new dimension not yet covered here...
That the future of work is going to look very different than it looks today, and the best thing you can do is begin now.

Here a study my team and I recently finished: The Future of Work: 2015-2020

Key finding: The relationship between companies and employees, overall, HAS to change.
The future will be a lot less about reassuring our teammates about their career... (matter of fact, the disruptive changes are only going to become more massive, more volatile and happen a lot more frequently)... and that companies need to be more about helping the workforce achieve THEIR dreams, not just the company's mission. Essentially, a lot more of a 50/50 partnership.

A practical first step to doing that:
• a la Drumm's insight "People support what they help create"...
• Involve them in facilitated "What does the future of work look like" conversations, training, development and offsites
• Will that directly help the issues you asked about? No.
• But here's what it does do... Over a period of several conversations, they begin to realize...
"Oh, it's not just here. The entire world of work is changing. I guess I better start thinking differently, changing what I expect this (or any company) to do for me, and do a lot more of it myself... me thinking and acting differently."

I have worked in change management for over a quarter century and this technique ALWAYS succeeds (with about 80% to 90% of people. There will always be a few holdouts!)

When people participate in this kind of discussion, they realize something that only they can choose to embrace... "Oh, I'M THE ONE WHO HAS TO CHANGE."

Your job is to lead them to and help facilitate those Aha moments!

Hope that helped.