Yes, managers are under a great deal of pressure turbulent times and all of us are well advised to take this condition into account in managing relationships with them. It has never been more important for everyone to focus on the job at hand, do it in the best way possible and tread lightly so as to avoid undue confrontations.
But there is another side to the coin.
Managers need to keep in mind that employees are under the gun to cut costs, increase production...in other words, do more with less.
People Are Frightened
It is well to remember that people generally are frightened about their jobs and the future as a whole. It is not possible to read in the morning newspaper and hear on the evening news about companies failing and even the strongest laying off people right and left. Apprehension is in the air.
This is a good time for managers to remind themselves that the people they supervise represent the most critical and sensitive resource available for getting the job done and advancing their careers paths. Good management practices that motivate human capital can mean the difference for that razor-thin ingredient between success in achieving career goals and settling for also-ran status.
It is a mistake to think that people are going to change their work practices overnight. The truth that in boom times some managers allow their troops to follow poor work habits; turn in sloppy work; and generally not care about the results. Then when the downturn comes along, they expect by issuing a new set of commands and establishing higher standards by the strength of exhortation alone men and women are going to suddenly shape up to perform at some higher level.
Work Habits Don't Change Overnight
Where bad work habits have been allowed to develop over a period of time, the manager who cracks the whip and expects everything to change overnight is riding toward a big surprise.
What can happen, however, is that the good manager will use the tough times to be reminded of his duties and objectives of the organization. He can start from ground zero to motivate and manage the work force. If done properly, these actions will begin to pay dividends in the short term, but there will not be any instant, miracle cures for all the problems.
If, on the other hand, a manager has been successful in maintaining high standards and good productivity, he can feel justified in asking for an extra effort. However, he shouldn't expect that by just applying pressure for more and better, the 100 percent effort will suddenly become 110 percent. People do reach their realistic capacity. To push for more over a longer period of time invites burnout and disaffection.
It is essential, especially in times of trial, that managers never ask those whom the supervise to do anything they can't or won't do themselves. Managers can't expect employees to just grin and bear it when layoffs are announced, if they themselves are taking Friday afternoons off to play a round of golf or going away for a few days at their favorite resorts.
Good managers will not communicate fear and foreboding to their teams. It has been said that the mark of a good leader is that his followers always leave his presence feeling better about the world in general and their prospects in particular. Indeed, it is foolish for the manager to paint silver linings in the skies if a thunderstorm is brewing. But the good manager simply will not allow himself to come across as defeated and depressed. The message, even in the toughest of times, has to be, "Yes things are rough, but we can work our way out of this situation if we recognize the facts and make our best effort to deal with them."