HR Management & Compliance

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Sorry for the sports cliché, but it fits. There are a lot of distractions in life — now more than ever.  The recession (I’m surprised someone hasn’t come up with a four letter word for it) has everyone distracted. Admit it, you come to work and you’re distracted. You log on to the Internet to check what the stock market is doing. How far has it fallen already today and it’s not even noon?  You check back two or three more times before that final one late in the day to get the closing number.

What’s the company stock price doing today? Is it up or down? What does that mean for those rumored layoffs, not to mention your pension? You’re worried about your job. You’re worried about your retirement account. You’re worried about making your mortgage payment. You’re just plain ol’ worried. Now you’re not only distracted, you’re despondent. Who has time for work? Based on the financial results being reported daily, nobody does. We’re sitting on our collective hands as the economy and our companies crater.

Here’s how a woman, suffering from depression, described her feelings to her physician. “It was really hard to get out of bed in the morning. I just wanted to hide under the covers and not talk to anyone.” Tell me that this doesn’t sound eerily familiar. Everyone is talking about what’s wrong. We’re all being driven by fear. When’s the last time you had an upbeat conversation about anything? If you think all of this hand-wringing and pessimism is getting you anywhere, you’re wrong.

Here comes another cliche. It’s time to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. What can you do today — this very minute — that will make a positive difference at your company? If something doesn’t leap to mind, you’ve got a problem. Here’s a novel idea, focus on the positive things you can do at work that will help the business. Start small, but do something. Anything. Commit right now to take all that time spent worrying and turn it into something productive. Can you help reduce expenses? Do you have an idea that will help generate more sales? Maybe you can come up with a way to increase efficiencies? Whatever it is, it has to be better than passing your hours at work lamenting the economy and all of its related problems.

As you return to making a real, consistent contribution at work you’ll begin to feel better. Your company will start to benefit again from your contributions. Things will begin to improve. Trust me, just try it. It will work.

As this happens, and things improve, it will be time for you to once again consider the long-term impact you can make. Sure right now we’re talking about survival, doing what’s necessary right now to make sure we live another day. But once that happens, you must again focus on the longer-term.

I grew up in Iowa and any farmer could tell you that the best way to plant a straight row was to focus on a fence post in the distance, aim the tractor for that mark and not lose sight of the target. If you didn’t do this — focused only on what was right in front of you – or if you got distracted, by the time you reached the other end of the field you would be nowhere near where you intended it to be. The same is true in business. You spend too much time with your head down and you won’t end up where you intended. Sure, you need to do the little things right now, but as things improve you need to think beyond today.

Finally, another cliché. This too will pass. The current economic environment won’t last forever.  And the quicker we all get back to work the quicker it will be over with. I believe that. But how you handle this crisis, how you react at work will be remembered for a long time. You have a choice to make. You can walk around in a daze like everyone else or starting today you can focus on doing something that will make a real difference. Which will it be?

Dan Oswald, is president and publisher of M. Lee Smith Publishers, which produces the Employment Law Post and as well as many online and print products and live events with information from experienced employment law attorneys in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, to help human resources and business professionals comply with state and federal employment laws.