Leading from under the Sword of Damocles

Managers at every level regularly face difficult situations, but perhaps none more difficult than leading employees who know or fear they are going to lose their jobs. The announced closure of Holden’s manufacturing operations in 2017 brings this home in spades. Team leaders of the 13,200 employees likely to face the prospect of finding new ways to earn an income as a direct and indirect result of the closure are faced with helping their staff perform to the best of their ability until the axe falls.

The continuing restructuring of the Australian economy to keep the country prosperous, reducing jobs in the manufacturing sector and increasing jobs in the service and knowledge sectors, is likely to be cold comfort to the employees with the prospect of their own eventual job loss and the job losses of their friends, neighbours and colleagues hanging over their heads. Let’s face it, it’s hard to take a holistic view when when you and your loved ones are standing under the Sword of Damocles.

Discussion questions

What steps would you take if you were leading a team who know or fear their jobs are going to disappear in the next two years? What messages would be important to communicate to them? What would you do to keep up current levels of output, quality and customer service? What risks to output, quality and customer service would you identify and want to remain alert to?