It's Okay to Say "I Don't Know"


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It’s almost a waste of ink to say these are uncertain times. We hear it everyday. No matter what business you are in, you’ve probably experienced economic ups and downs and your employees are probably asking or at least wondering:

• Is my job safe?
• Is the organization financially sound?
• What does the future hold for this

In these scary times of budget cuts and layoffs, employees look to Human Resources for the critical information they crave. The reality is that you may not know the answers to their questions. Still, your responses can send strong emotional signals about your ability to lead under pressure. This presentation is a look at how to handle the tough questions we are all facing.

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It's Okay to Say "I Don't Know"

  1. 1. It’s Okay to Say “I Don’t Know” Prescott Area HR Association June 2, 2009 Management Education Group, Inc . Tough HR Questions that Have No Answer
  2. 2. Job Losses – February 2007 to March 2009 When Did Your County's Jobs Disappear? Arizona 7.7%(p) in Apr 2009 Unemployment Rates 5,024,780 jobs lost nationwide since March 2008
  3. 3. What are the Tough Questions You Can’t Answer? <ul><li>We’ve already cut 20% of the workforce. Are we done? </li></ul><ul><li>I heard the company was considering a furlough. Will we all be required to participate? </li></ul><ul><li>I know we are in a hiring freeze. How is the company going to get all this work done? How will my job be impacted? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Session Objectives <ul><li>At the end of this session you will be able to: </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge natural human reactions in the face of uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>Anticipate the questions you are likely to face </li></ul><ul><li>Consider six tips for confidently answering the tough questions </li></ul>
  5. 5. Facing the Emotions <ul><li>What are the typical reactions you are seeing from employees? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the typical reactions you are seeing from organizational leaders? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Reactions will Vary – Even in France <ul><li>3M factory holds plant manager hostage </li></ul><ul><li>Sony plant manager locked in his office </li></ul><ul><li>Angry tire factory employees threw eggs </li></ul>
  7. 7. Common Reactions <ul><li>Resistance, defensiveness, threatening </li></ul><ul><li>Pleading his/her case or bargaining </li></ul><ul><li>Wanting to speak to a “decision maker” </li></ul><ul><li>Asking “why me?” </li></ul><ul><li>Getting personally upset with management </li></ul><ul><li>Arguing about someone who is retained </li></ul><ul><li>Listing personal or organizational repercussions that will cascade from the loss </li></ul><ul><li>Breaking down emotionally </li></ul><ul><li>Going into shock and denying the reality </li></ul>
  8. 8. Common Questions <ul><li>Who made the decision? </li></ul><ul><li>Who can I talk with to get this decision reversed? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any other jobs for me? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I keep my job if I take a pay cut or reduce my time? </li></ul><ul><li>Who else is being impacted? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions <ul><ul><li>Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your company’s policies and process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How workload will be redistributed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timeline for change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Options for recall </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Resources to be offered to employees </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(EAP, benefits, outplacement, etc.) </li></ul>Key #1: Know Your Stuff
  10. 10. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions Key #2: Communicate Early and Often <ul><li>Respond to community and industry impacts as they happen </li></ul><ul><li>Tell employees about change before the outside world knows </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver news face to face when at all possible </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly CEO webcasts </li></ul><ul><li>Daily or weekly intranet updates under a heading designated for the change </li></ul><ul><li>CEO town halls </li></ul><ul><li>Training for supervisors on how to deliver tough messages </li></ul>
  11. 11. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions Key #3: Deliver Individual Messages with Dignity <ul><li>Loss messages must be delivered in person, not electronically </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered by someone the employee knows </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered in private </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered early in the day and not on a day prior to a day off or weekend </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the day in relationship to significant dates for the employee (birthday, religious holiday, family event, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Be prepared for the emotional response </li></ul>
  12. 12. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions Key #4: Instruct front-line employees how to respond to questions from the public or customers <ul><li>Prepare a list of customer questions you expect </li></ul><ul><li>Provide scripts or common responses for employees to use </li></ul>
  13. 13. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions Key #5: Keep Your Ear to the Ground <ul><li>Watch and listen for rumors </li></ul><ul><li>Anticipate rumors and address them before they spread </li></ul><ul><li>Address rumors promptly via established communication tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Webcasts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Newsletters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Town Halls </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Keys for Answering the Tough Questions Key #6: Get Back to Work <ul><li>Refocus the conversation on things employees can do something about </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintaining customer relations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improving morale </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintaining or increasing productivity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Restate the organization’s mission over and over </li></ul><ul><li>Refocus your expectations for performance </li></ul><ul><li>Ask employees for input before making decisions that impact their roles </li></ul><ul><li>Respond to employee questions or requests promptly </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize employees who go the extra mile </li></ul>
  15. 15. Self Check <ul><li>What can you do to ease the fears and address the uncertainty in your organization? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Thank you for your time! Marnie E. Green Management Education Group, Inc. 480-705-9394