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Economic anxiety permeates workplace

Kai Ryssdal Dec 5, 2008

Economic anxiety permeates workplace

Kai Ryssdal Dec 5, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: Everybody’s feeling the squeeze of a stuck economy. At home, sure. Even when you go to work you can’t really get away from it. Here at Marketplace, it’s potluck at the boss’s house for the holiday party. Still though, we’re lucky, because with layoffs and cutbacks, some places are downright bleak. They sure are where Liz Brown, Angel Gonzales and Peter Liebman work.

Liz Brown: People aren’t doing as much for Christmas — like we’re not doing Secret Santa.

Angel Gonzales: Pay cuts because people got laid off, everybody’s mad about their bonuses.

Peter Liebman: There’s no holiday party, hours are getting cut back. It’s doom and gloom definitely.

Profit forecasts aren’t great. Neither are your odds for a year-end bonus. That’s never good for morale. Or the bottom line. Author Marcus Buckingham wrote a book called “The Truth about You: Your Secret to Success.” He says when employees think their jobs are in jeopardy productivity takes a dive.

Marcus Buckingham: Well during times like this, what people struggle most with is the anxiety of it, the uncertainty of it. They’re not sure when the next shoe is going to drop.

Spence Maughan’s waiting for that shoe. He’s grabbing lunch outside the financial services firm he works for in downtown Los Angeles.

Spence Maughan: Everyone kind of speculates because they have a lot of meetings recently and it’s one of those where they keep telling us oh your jobs are fine. But every time they have a meeting and tell us our jobs are fine they make us nervous.

Marcus says managers ought to bear in mind that the death by a thousand cuts approach isn’t going to do it.

Buckingham: So if you’re a manager going I’m going to just do it little bit by bit by bit and hope the employees don’t notice. Well unfortunately they’re smarter than that. They’re going to pick it up. Any decision you make to cut costs, much better to come right out and admit that’s what you’re doing.

At an after work wine tasting, music industry executive Jean-Christophe Chamboredon is trying to deal with the stress.

Jean-Christophe Chamboredon: Well I’m drinking wine right now so that could be the answer.

He did his first layoffs not to long ago.

Chamboredon: I felt I was a total monster.

And ever since he’s been trying reassure his clients, his employees, everybody, without much luck.

Chamboredon: It’s kind of a Pavlov complex when things get bad people lose their coolness and don’t understand that you have to work together to make it through.

Marcus Buckingham points out there are some ways boost morale in bad economic times, selectively.

Buckingham: Go sit down with the people you know you’ll need as you move forward and talk to them about why they’ll be so valuable to you in the future and why that together you’re going to have to work really hard to build that future.

Kathy Didion’s sipping wine down the bar. Her boss in Detroit took that positive approach, she says. It kind of worked.

Kathy Didion: So I’m positively thinking that in two and a half years I’m going to be able to retire.

Laughing so she doesn’t cry, I guess, in an economy that’s lost two and a half million jobs in the past 12 months.

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