How to Support Your Team When Uncertainty Is High

During turbulent times, managers can take steps to help their direct reports feel more empowered, even when their control is limited.

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“My team seems really anxious,” a manager recently told me. “We just went through a reorg, and there are a lot of concerns about the future. I want to give everyone some kind of assurance, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen in six months either. What can I do?”

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation recently, you’re not alone. Almost every people leader I’ve met with over the past year has asked me some version of this question. And in a recent study, 89% of HR leaders shared that their teams have voiced concerns about job security, leadership changes, or reorgs.

When uncertainty is high, managers should aim to make work a place of stability rather than another source of stress. “The most effective managers clearly communicate that they care about the people on their team,” explained Molly Sands, head of practices for Atlassian’s Team Anywhere. “Research shows that what managers of top-performing teams consistently do differently is to make their reports feel valued and comfortable.”

How can you offer assurance when a lot of big decisions — and broader economic conditions — are outside of your control? It may seem almost impossible, but it’s not. Here are seven ways managers can support their teams during turbulent times without making promises they can’t keep.

Help each employee work toward their dream job. You can’t always guarantee someone a promotion (or, unfortunately, even job stability), but you can commit to giving your employees the kinds of valuable learning opportunities that will help them no matter what comes next.

To surface the experiences or projects your team members would be excited to take on, ask them to show you a job posting for a role they’d be thrilled to have in three to five years. Walk through the listed responsibilities together, and pinpoint any for which they think they lack the skills or compelling experience. Then commit to helping them grow in these areas by offering them relevant tasks or projects.

It can also be useful to make career chats a habit.


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