Managing During Difficult Times

April 15, 2019

How to effectively lead a team during challenging times.

Any number of circumstances can create difficult times in the workplace.  Changes in leadership, mergers, and acquisitions, layoffs, even simple process changes can create stress for a team.  As a leader, you are responsible for being a steadying force and source of encouragement and support, especially during difficult times.

Here are the basics:

Communicate – leaving the lines of communication open, even when there is uncertainty, this is critical.  Be sure to communicate with your team routinely, even if you don’t have new information to share.  Maintaining clear and consistent communication lets the team know they are in the loop and there is a place or space to share, ask questions, or raise concerns.

Don’t leave room for assumptions – when we don’t have answers, it can become easy to assume the worst.  During periods of transition, uncertainty creeps in, and without clear and consistent communication gossip and rumor can create the kind of atmosphere that can turn toxic.

Come together – As with communication, meeting in person or even virtually helps teams to stay connected.  The best way to stay on top of how people are feeling is by continually reaching out and checking in.  Again, do this even when there isn’t any new information to share because it’s important to stay connected.

Be optimistic – Leaders are often privy to the details that are most challenging, you may know about an impending acquisition or prospective layoffs and not be able to share that information.  It’s important to maintain the confidentiality of this information while also staying positive and being an example of optimism for your team.  An acquisition or round of layoffs could be terrible but try to focus on the ways you can help and support.  Even in the worst case where valued employees are let go, you can offer letters of recommendation and make your network available to help them in their job search.  Things can seem grim, but keeping the team focused and positive will minimize collateral damage – strained work relationships, added stress on their spouses or families, etc.

If you’re a business owner or in a leadership role, it is equally important to find support for yourself.  Bearing the burden of your team’s stress and worry can be draining; you must find ways to recharge.  Too often, leaders succumb to the temptation of taking all that angst home and unloading it on a partner or confiding in a colleague or team member, this is risky business.  Even if it’s temporary, having a sounding board as you navigate difficult times is important.  An article written by Amy Vetter for Inc. describes it perfectly:

You do not need to go it alone as you navigate through your career or business. You will always face new challenges and setbacks that you can’t figure out on your own and need someone you can ask or bounce ideas off of. You may know where you want to go, and perhaps even have a good idea on how to get there, but a professional coach can offer the untarnished insight, feedback, and guidance you need to become a star player.


For more information on how to be the steadying force for your team, get in touch.