Dealing With Distraction

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May 2009

Dealing with Distraction

Since last summer (2008) you and I have been inundated with a steady stream of negative economic news. It would be a rare person who could not confess to at least a moment or two of worry or doubt. As 24 hour news outlets flood us with information that incessantly trumpets economic catastrophe, what impact is this having on the talent in our organizations? How should leaders do their jobs in this vast sea of fear and distraction?

Since 4Q-2008, it appears as if this economic downturn has taken its toll on employee engagement. According to Leigh Branham, consultant and internationally renowned author in the area of employee retention and engagement, even Best-Places-to-Work organizations (65%) have seen a decrease in employee engagement over the past months. We are a distracted people these days. Little time elapses before we are hit with new negative information. And the latest wild card, the Swine Flu (H1/N1) pandemic scare has some organizations responding to employees’ concern/demand for a healthy work environment. Today’s leaders are trying to lead in one of the most distracting environments of our time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April 2009 data states that the national unemployment rate has risen to 8.9%. Twelve months ago it was 5.0%. Florida’s unemployment rate is 9.7%. The BLS also reports that mass layoffs (50 or more unemployment claims) are at an historical high. According to RealtyTrac, foreclosures have increased 9% in 1Q-2009 and up 24% compared to 1Q-2008. We could go on, adding the latest gruesome data about credit card debt, bank lending, 401k values, health care inflation and workers compensation claims but it is time to stop.

Years ago when our country was being settled, traveling wagon trains would be met by the town or small settlement leader who would ask for the news or an information report about happenings back east. After a short time of listening to these “news reports”, the settlement leader would simply put his hand up and announce, “enough”. Now it’s our turn. Let’s stop and turn our attention from the fear market to what is working.

Here are a couple of questions for you: What are you and your organization doing to keep employees engaged? How are you and/or your organization leading others during these times? Please reply to sender, and your response along with additional better practices will be reported in the July Edge. Your response will remain anonymous.


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