When your money’s tight, you may cut back on some fun outings to save a little money. But when your company’s money is tight, management will often cut back on staff numbers, either by not replacing positions when someone quits or by starting layoffs. Being understaffed brings up a variety of issues that you can easily tackle if you’re prepared.
The saying “it’s not personal; it’s business” is widely known because many decisions corporations make are for the overall health of the business and aren’t meant to be personal. But that doesn’t stop the decisions from affecting you personally. You may miss a co-worker that got laid off or have a bit of guilt that you still have a job while others don’t. You may also be nervous about the security of your job or how the work is all going to get done with less people to do it. It’s natural to feel this way, but make sure these worries don’t interfere with your work, because the best way to keep your job is to do it well.
When staff numbers decrease, it often means that your boss will divide up duties from an eliminated position between you and other existing employees. This means you may be taking on new duties that you’re not sure how to do and could require some training. Whether it’s learning a new process, procedure or a software program, you’ll have a learning curve ahead of you as you take on new duties. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on these new tasks or to offer your help to a co-worker as needed to help everyone get up to speed as quickly as possible.
Even after you’ve learned your new duties, taking on new responsibilities often means taking on added stress. Learning to prioritize the new duties along with your existing ones can be a challenge, and the stress of “I can’t fit it all in” can set in. If you have too many work tasks on your plate, you can feel like you’re behind all the time, a huge de-motivator that makes you dread work and causes your morale to take a nosedive. Increased stress often leads to the remaining workers searching for new jobs, resulting in higher turnover. This means even more duties are absorbed and there's more stress, which can become a vicious cycle.
Although the goal of doing business with less staff is meant to save a company money in the long run, in the short term it causes setbacks in productivity. As existing employees learn new duties, some tasks are bound to fall through the cracks, and deadlines can get missed or the quality of customer service goes down temporarily. Stressed employees tend to be less productive as they concentrate on adjusting to their added duties. Plan to give yourself some elbow room during this time of transition and support your co-workers so they will do the same.
Jennafer Martin has more than 14 years of experience in writing, editing and brand management for literary, business-to-business and consumer publications. She is a writer for Zoe Soul Spa and "Pets in the City" magazine.