Company Culture in Times of Uncertainty
Best practices for maintaining and/or fostering a healthy company culture during a time of crisis include communicating openly about the situation, demonstrating resilience and opportunism, and protecting and supporting employees.
- One best practice is to communicate openly with the entire organization (as much as possible) about the details of the crisis and what is being done to manage it. If team members don't know what's going on, this uncertainty breeds chaos, fear, and low morale. Including team members in the discussion of the crisis will reduce confusion and anxiety and will also help them feel they are trusted and important members of the organization. "Even if you don’t have all the details, that’s OK. Try something like, “I know you may have been hearing rumors about a potential round of layoffs. I don’t have a lot of information about what’s going on, but I can tell you that sales have been down for three quarters straight, and the executive team is trying to figure out the Q4 budget.” Or, if you are able to reassure your team about any negative news, do so." This strategy can be especially important if the news is bad; communicating openly and as quickly as possible will prevent gossip, chaos, or resentment, all of which can start to degrade company culture. In addition, when leadership includes team members in the company's plans to move forward from the crisis, they can secure buy-in from employees which will make the process easier and will boost team morale.
- Second, leadership should demonstrate resilience and opportunism, focusing on the positive rather than the negative. "Remain as optimistic as possible. How you show up in a crisis has a significant impact. Positive thoughts and actions focus on strengths, successes, opportunities and collaboration. Leaders radiate trust, hope and optimism that leads to positive energy, confidence and purpose." When leaders set this example, it will radiate throughout the entire company culture and keep employees motivated. One tangible way to do this is to look at the crisis as an opportunity to grow and improve as a company and an organization and to focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes. In one example of this tactic, a company facing a financial crisis turned away from mass layoffs and instead decided to "distribute salary reductions across the company, and allow employees to trade time off, so that no one needs to lose their job. Under this scenario, profits skyrocketed because employees felt safe." This strategy calmed the immediate fears of employees and built a level of buy-in and loyalty that boosted company culture in the long-term.
- Finally, companies should protect and support their employees. Leadership should have an open-door policy as much as possible and really listen to employee concerns, answer questions, and demonstrate empathy. These practices will help employees feel safe, which will help them remain motivated, engaged, and optimistic.