Decisions That Impact Employees’ Well-Being: The Tyranny of Thinking You’re Not Doing Enough

Part of my work is to help relieve leaders’ suffering so that their best can emerge in service of the business mission and vision. That language–relieving suffering–sounds a little funny even to me. Maybe even a little spiritual. But suffering takes many forms and relieving it is practical.

When your decisions or others’ impact the well-being of employees—decisions like a business or division being sold or acquired, downsizing, closing a location, eliminating a function or program, firing  or letting an employee go—you can fall into the tyranny of thinking you haven’t done or aren’t doing enough. I’ve heard the most logical, Teflon-coated individuals whom others think little or nothing rattles, in acute angst over changing people’s lives this way.

Are you in this situation?

You must define “enough.”

What is “doing enough” for the well-being of these people in light of the decision made? If you never define enough, you will not have peace or worse, will have a regret that haunts you for life. Can you live with yourself today, a year from now, 10 years? Look around—someone has been in your shoes and if you ask, will share her experience and perspective.

Enough is going to depend on the circumstances and context. It might be that you’ve brought resources in to assist them, that you have been forthcoming about uncertainty, or not unthinkingly engaged in what appears to be excess while giving the message the business must cut costs. It might be that you allow yourself to fully show the pain of this decision to those in your charge. The next two “musts” can help you flesh out what enough is.

  1.  You must keep your eye on the business objective. That doesn’t mean at all costs but if you leave the business objective out of the equation you are left with a social decision. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But whole teams, divisions, and even companies can get out of tune with and “forget” the business objective even with the mission and vision prominent in branding materials or hallway signage.
  2. You must ensure that your stance dignifies people by respecting what they give up in order for the business to survive. They contributed before and now they contribute in another way to the system even if they will no longer be employees. You can dignify these departures by a gathering to express appreciation and say goodbye, or seeking a live forum to convey your personal message and to respond in real time. You might make it known that you have an open door policy to hear peoples’ concerns as changes take place. This dignifying and respecting is vital not only for you, and for those who are leaving, are being re-organized, or having something taken from them, but for the whole organization. Individually and collectively—as humans and a human system–we are all acutely tuned to a sense of fairness.

Leading an organization, running a business, being in a leadership role are all courageous acts. The decisions you make or have to implement that impact others aren’t easy. Some can be painful, but release yourself from the tyranny of not doing enough. You and those you lead will be better served.


U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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