Economy negatively impacts employees and team interactions

Working within corporate America is more difficult than ever.  What factors are contributing to this?

Management expectations remain largely unchanged in spite of downsizing, reductions in hours, reduced compensation and bonuses, etc.  People are expected to do more with less and receive less total compensation even though they may be working harder than they ever have in their lives just trying to keep up with demands.

People aren’t getting much if any scope or schedule relief despite these factors.  Somehow, it all needs to get done even when it can’t.

The pressures people are feeling are tremendous.  People across this economy are living with constant uncertainty over whether they will have a job from one week to the next, they know that reorganizations are happening daily and are not sure how they will fare in them, they are seeing what is happening to others who have lost their jobs, and some know they are not in a sound financial position to weather a protracted period of time without having a job.

Add to this stress the fact that many in the high-tech world who are working in the U.S. under H1B work visas could be required to leave the U.S. almost immediately should they lose their jobs and be unable to secure a new one within a few days.  Many of the folks in this situation attended American colleges and universities and have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more.

It’s no wonder we are starting to see unusual behaviors.  I ran into this very situation today.

I’m helping a client with the development and validation of a new capability within an existing business intelligence system.  A meeting scheduled for this afternoon had to be pushed back 48 hours due to a last-minute scheduling problem.  My I.T. counterpart went ballistic over this routine occurrence.

Suddenly, from his perspective, we can’t this project done soon enough (he wants it completed in 2 weeks) and he is citing resource and budget pressures as conspiring against him.  Yet, after 7 months, he delivered a prototype about 3 weeks ago that is giving us wildly incorrect answers.  Does he really think we can go live simply because the clock is ticking and he needs to cross this project off his checklist?  It’s not “good enough” yet.  It’s not even close.

As I thought about this sudden out-of-character behavior of my I.T. counterpart, it dawned on me that this guy may have some bonus tied to this date that he’s never revealed to anyone.  That could certainly contribute to what I see as “bizarre” behavior on his part today.  I know that he and all other employees just missed receiving a mid-year bonus for the first time in many years, so he may be feeling a big financial squeeze–that too could add to the pressure he’s feeling.  It could also be that his boss told him to get this to the finish line now.  Perhaps there is some other issue in his life that I’m not aware of.  It is certainly not comfortable to watch.

What should we do in situation like this?

Take a deep breath and realize that this is an extraordinary time that we live in.   Accept that we often can’t understand what’s causing great upheaval in another person’s life and that this is a good time to reach out to understand how you can be part of this solution. Look for ways to help your colleagues and team be successful and try to be empathetic with each other.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

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