Managers involved in repeated budget and staff cutbacks are hurting. Unfortunately, many don't have the psychological support they need. Two University of Kansas researchers, education dean Rick Ginsberg and psychology chairwoman Karen Multon, recently charted the stressful effects of the "financial tsunami" on deans and department chairs in higher education. Many public universities in particular have been hit with funding cuts that have forced layoffs, fewer and larger classes and staff morale problems.
The researchers found a greater incidence of headaches, high blood pressure, sleeping difficulty and weight gain among the deans and department chairs who had to oversee those cuts.
Their findings can easily translate into the private industry, where many supervisors have had to cope with repeated rounds of job eliminations and budget cutbacks.
They concluded that such managers need the equivalent of crisis management training because the effects of continued cuts are as severe as one massive incident would be.
The professors suggest four kinds of help for managers caught in such cutback environments:
• Be as transparent as possible with your staff, sharing as much financial information as you possibly can so that people understand the reasons for budget takeaways, pay cuts and staff losses.
• Involve your staff as much as possible to come up with ways to cope with budget cuts, perhaps sharing the pain more fairly or sensibly than supervisors might design on their own. That helps defuse anger.
• Develop a close-knit group of managers in similar positions, a group that can meet regularly and be a confidential support system for each other, sharing problems and suggesting solutions.
• Take physical and emotional care of yourself. Schedule regular exercise. Eat a healthy diet. Spend time with your family and friends, but try not to lay your work burdens on them. And seek professional counseling if you need a more confidential or advisory outlet.