Our business was increasing, which was good, impacting the staff everywhere in the organization. They were working hard, extra hours, and begging their leader for more help. I never forgot the CEO’s message, one he regularly shared with us in leadership, but also to the employees in the organization. He preferred a lean staff and while I don’t recall the actual words, here’s what I remember he told everyone.
“If we add a new position, we need to know the need is long term, not just because we’re busy now. We don’t want to add someone, and later not have enough business to support the position we added and end up laying someone off. If we must lay staff off, it impacts people’s lives and it’s a failure on our part as leaders. I don’t believe the staff should pay for leadership mistakes.”
He stayed true to his word and during his tenure, we didn’t lay employees off. We sometimes had to move them around to other areas and re-train them, but they had a job.
Is it time to add a new position in your organization? It’s a common challenge for organizations everywhere and there is no easy answer to it. If you truly care about your people, and not just say you do, it’s especially difficult because whatever decision you make impacts lives. If you see your people as a variable expense, one that can be easily shed, it’s probably not difficult for you.
Here are some unintended consequences I’ve experienced.
Adding too soon (not enough work)
- New expectations – The team gets used to a slower and easier pace. If or when business picks up again, it’s harder getting them back working at a busier pace and instead, they use their energy begging for more staff.
- Increased complaints – Busy teams don’t have much time to complain, they are focused on getting the job done. If there is not enough work for the team, everyone has more time to complain and be disgruntled. Instead of increased satisfaction, you can get increased dissatisfaction.
- Layoff – There is nothing worse than having to tell someone that through no fault of their own, they don’t have a job. You impact their life, and that of their spouse and children. Everyone watches and wonders if their job is safe.
Waiting too long (on overload)
- I can’t do my best work – Frustration grows when staff feel overloaded. Everyone believes it’s the extra work, but it’s not. It’s the inability to do your best work, what you can take pride in, and feel like you make a difference.
- Lack of care –Staff want to know their leaders care about them personally and their work. The longer a team is on overload, the less they feel cared for. If the team doesn’t feel cared for, they will soon stop caring to do their best because after all, “no one cares, so why should I?”
- Turnover – When staff can’t do their best work and don’t feel cared for, they seek a new opportunity where they can. We call it turnover. Never forget the “law of turnover”, i.e., you will lose the people you don’t want to lose, and those you wish would leave will stay. In the end you have less people, the wrong people, and more work than the team can handle.
It’s a balancing act and there is no perfect answer. Whatever you choose, make certain you communicate with your staff “why” you’ve chosen to add, or not add. It’s important they know.
Sensible people always think before they act, but stupid people advertise their ignorance. Proverbs 13:16 (GNT)