HAVE you been thinking about your career recently? If you’re like most people, you will have given some thought as to what the year might hold for you. Will you lose your job? Will you get promoted? Will you get a pay rise? Should you start looking around for something else?

If you’ve been thinking like this, the chances are the members of your team have been as well.

And if senior management sent you messages like “profits are down”, “we need to increase sales” or “we might have to rationalise or restructure”, you’re going to have your work cut out when it comes to keeping your team productive and motivated.

When people are distracted and stressed, they make mistakes, get into petty arguments and generally can make life in the office a living hell! This is not something that’s going to show you in the best light at the management meetings.

As their manager or team leader, what can you do to help the situation? Here are five ways to keep your staff motivated during a recession.

1. Communicate

Nothing stresses people out more than not knowing what’s going on. People are always willing to think the worst. Make sure that your team can come to you and get answers.

Equally when you have information that’s relevant to them, make sure you keep them all in the loop.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because someone was in the office when you were telling someone else about it that they were listening or even realised that what you were talking about was relevant to them. Have frank discussions and include all the people who are involved.

2. Be honest

You need to be as honest as possible with your team. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you divulge confidential information or discuss sensitive information inappropriately.

Being honest with them means explaining the reasons why things are happening. If priorities have changed, your team needs to know about it and when they understand the reasons why, they are generally a lot more co-operative than you might give them credit for.

They may not like what they’re being asked to do — take a pay cut or forgo a promotion — but if they understand why it’s important, you’ll get a much higher level of buy-in from them.

3. Lead by example

It’s your duty as a manager to act as a buffer between your team and the management tier above you.

To keep your team motivated and productive, you may need to shield them from any politics, panic or doom and gloom, but more than that, you must lead by example.

Even when things are tough, you’ve got to hold it together, be confident and be decisive — this is not a time for dithering or procrastinating. As far as getting the job done is concerned, it’s business as usual.

4. Be more strategic

At times like these, you need to be thinking ahead. Let your team deal with the minutiae and details.

If you allow yourself to get buried in day to day activities, you may find that all inspiration or creativity has been sapped from you.

When times are tough, the whole organisation is relying on its managers to spot opportunities, improve processes and find ways to get customers buying again.

You must keep yourself free to concentrate on the big picture.

5. Put a lid on gossip

Gossip has the potential to either damage someone’s reputation or cause widespread panic around the office, particularly if people are gossiping about looming redundancies, so the moment you find out about any gossip, deal with it.

The last thing you want is your best member of staff to go and find another job because he thought, incorrectly, that he might be made redundant.

Listen, by all means, to find out what’s going on, but don’t start rumours or get caught up spreading them.

Your team needs you now more than they have ever needed you before. They need you to be strong and to lead them through this period of uncertainty.