It would be wise for managers to keep workers in the loop

ON THE JOB

October 31, 2008|By HANAH CHO | HANAH CHO,hanah.cho@baltsun.com

Amid uncertainty over the reeling economy, workers want answers - or at least some information - from higher-ups about how the financial turmoil could affect them.

That kind of feedback goes a long way to help relieve anxiety and avoid the rumor mill, workplace experts say.

"As a general rule, most managers will be well-served to share information," says Robert Trumble, professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University's business school and director of the Virginia Labor Studies Center. "In today's age, you could get so much information anyhow.

"It sets the tenor of the relationship, a more trusting relationship," he adds.

But one survey found that the work force's desire for information on the impact of the economic crisis was not being met by leaders.

The survey of 514 workers, commissioned by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, found that 71 percent believe that their company's leaders should be communicating more about current economic problems.

And 54 percent of workers said they have not heard from management at all on the impact of the financial crisis on their companies.

(The survey conducted in early October has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.)

Seventy percent of workers said they expect increasing economic problems to have a negative impact on their companies over the next year. And of those respondents, 26 percent believe their companies will lay off workers, and 62 percent said their employers would have trouble meeting their goals.

"The anxiety is there. It's not like you're creating new anxiety," Trumble says. "If anything, you could serve as a modest relief. You could say a couple of things. I think it's better to address it than to avoid it."

Maybe some companies are starting to get the message.

Increasing communication about pay and benefits in the next 12 months were the top two things 248 U.S. companies plan to do in response to a worsening financial crisis, according to a new survey conducted in mid-October by consulting firm Watson Wyatt.

About a quarter of employers expect to slash jobs, while another 25 percent expect to institute a hiring freeze.

Workplace tidbit: I've never been to a work-sponsored holiday party. None of my employers has ever held one.

But plenty of companies still plan to hold them despite the economy, though the number is fewer than last year.

In its annual holiday party survey of 100 companies, Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 77 percent are planning to host shindigs this year, down from 90 percent last year.

Seven respondents that typically hold holiday parties are canceling them this year as a cost-cutting measure, Challenger says.

Of those employers holding parties, 13 percent plan to cut their spending.

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