on July 8, 2008
Employee morale is heading toward the bottom of the beer barrel at Anheuser-Busch, reports say. In the news yesterday: word that the Belgian beer company InBev is attempting to replace the entire Anheuser board. InBev wants a new board that is more amenable to their $46 billion takeover bid that was nixed by the board they InBev hope to oust.
It’s good to see some news coverage discussing the impact this battle is having on employee morale. There’s talk of job cuts to fend off the takeover—who wouldn’t be nervous? And when one’s employer is embroiled in an ongoing tumultuous situation, with the relentless publicity (in this case, shall we call it brewhaha?) that comes with it, employees experience fear, anger, and ambivalence. Their sense of loyalty and level of productivity plummet as they ponder the possibilities. How will they be affected if InBev’s takeover is successful? Would InBev be a better company to work for? Or if the takeover fails, would life as an Anheuser employee be the same? Better? Worse?
Let’s hope that the folks in charge at A-B know how important it is to keep your employees extremely informed of what’s going on and to show concern for their feelings. Here are four of the most important things leaders must do to keep employees as loyal and engaged as possible during a crisis situation:
- Make sure that employees receive news first. It’s demoralizing to learn something about your employer by reading it in the newspaper or online or by hearing it on the radio or television.
- Be honest with employees about what’s going on—even if the truth involves layoffs or other unpleasant news.
- Encourage employees to submit questions, and then regularly (for awhile, perhaps even daily) publish the questions along with the answers for all employees to see.
- Acknowledge that the situation is difficult and stressful. Employees feel helpless and have no control over what’s going on—yet their lives may be impacted in a huge way. Have compassion for what the employees are experiencing.