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Like Madame Curie, I find myself in the laboratory desperately seeking an antidote for the all-too-easily-transmittable “Recession Fatigue.”

You are familiar with it, of course. A social disorder characterized by deteriorating morale, low energy, falling sales, dispirited attitudes and lack of initiative. Unfortunately it’s highly contagious and here’s the irony: The people most prone to recession fatigue are currently working.

You know the drill: Layoffs, increased workloads, bonuses gone, salaries cut, Damocles’ Sword hanging over every cubicle and corner office. Management goes A.W.O.L., afraid to deal with the messiness of anxious and even angry employees. In this vacuum everyone is at risk and afraid, spreading bad tidings like the germs of a pandemic. What can one do to outwit the soothsayers of doom?

Spend more time not less with employees. This is a time for open doors, meetings, group coaching sessions and if you can, complimentary coffee and Diet Cokes.

Share the roadmap so everyone can see the bumpy road ahead.

Honesty is still the best policy. While it’s hard to hear bad news, it lowers the anxiety when you’re braced for impact.

Act as listener-in-chief. Shakespeare sent King Henry V to walk amongst his soldiers to hear their fears the evening before the battle with the French. Demonstrating empathy and concern is critical at a time of crisis.

Relish the role of leader. Do not delegate the job of motivating, encouraging, validating and supporting your staff to lower management. This is your time to serve.

Resist the temptation to take a “hey, you should be happy you’re working” mindset. (They probably get that at home.)

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© Copyright 2009 Ellen Lubin-Sherman


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