A View on Motivation, Change, Leadership and Training in a Downturn Economy


I was watching the BBC news last night on TV and whilst watching clips of President Obama defending his health plans I came across a rather disturbing headline that stated that the  team bonding Singapore unemployment rate in the UK is at present the highest since 1995. This should not really surprise anyone. We have seen corporations collapse, fluctuating currencies, worrying reports of new world orders and riots in cities. Whilst the downturn has brought on much suffering and changes globally the headline itself brought to mind some of the management theories I had learned whilst on my MBA course a few years back.

This is a rather worrying statistic. The word statistic tends to remove the human emotion from the equation. I believe it was Stalin who once said that the death of a single person is a tragedy; more than that is just a statistic. The statistic here is you, me and my neighbor next door. Despite reassurances from across the Atlantic that the recession is now over, the unemployment rate is extremely high. I cannot begin to imagine the mental state of people in the firing line of the downturn.

Unfortunately the unemployment rate is usually the last statistic to improve in any downturn. Increasing employment rates tend to denote that companies are once again confident in their growth capacity and the markets and are thereby investing in the future. The changes in the unemployment rate is a clear indication that a downturn is surely over or that companies are still cautious in how they hire new staff and take on new investments.

Whilst executives and senior managers worry about steering their corporate ships through these treacherous waters it is usually the crew below that tend to suffer the most. The downturn has brought with it copious volumes of risk in job security. Employees have had to worry if they would be laid off or sent home. Many companies have shamefully also used the downturn as an excuse to lay off staff and cut costs. Whilst other companies have had no choice but to enforce pressure on their staff to work much longer hours with heavier work loads.

A corporation is responsible for its staff. That is a humane view point. Employees come in to work and spend most of their lives working for a corporation. The treatment of staff, their well being and management during these hard times are a clear indication of the true colours of the company itself. Hard times are a clear indication of the true person behind the corporate persona. Companies must realize that how they tend to treat employees during these times are a clear indication of who they really are. Once the downturn is over, winning back employee confidence and convincing them they are more than just a statistic is going to be much more challenging.

Employees are possibly at their lowest state of mind on par with that which has not been witnessed in the last decade. Abraham Maslow had a theory named the Hierarchy of Needs Motivational Model which is widely studied on many of the abundant MBA courses globally. This model is a triangle shaped model in which the bottom layer is said to be the most significant factor in the motivation of an employee or more so his/her desire to perform within the company. As the building blocks are piled up on the triangle so does the necessity of each block reduce in motivational significance. Needless to say the first block details human physiological needs such as food, water, shelter, etc. These are basic human necessities. Just above the basic ethical humanitarian needs of people is security. Shockingly, this is what most employees do not have at present. Job security and employment rates are at the lowest levels as seen in the last decade. The basic human need of job security has been compromised. I cannot begin to imagine the mental, emotional and physical strains placed on workers today. Perhaps the government should take more action on the severity of the current situation although this could be borne by management themselves in combating this lack of security. The triangle blocks continue to pile up in the order of love and belonging (e.g. part of a team), esteem (e.g. working for Google 😛 ), purpose and self-actualization.