The Fragile Grip Principle
The employee and employer relationship is inherently fragile.
The Employer needs to do what is best for them in the long term, and try to get the most value out of the relationship with the employee with the least amount of sacrifice.
The Employee needs to do what is best for them in the long term, and try to get the most value out of the relationship with the employer with the least amount of sacrifice.
This creates a delicate balance that is not always easy to maintain, even at the best of times. But when times become challenging, like during a global pandemic or entering an economic recession, how we handle this relationship will define our success with it.
This is what we call the Fragile Grip Principle. The acknowledgment that how this fragile relationship is handled by employers greatly impacts the future success of their business.
How Do You Handle The Relationship With Your Employees?
When stressed and unsure of the future, the way employers choose to handle this relationship can go one of three ways.
The Harsh Grip
They can grip too tight, crushing the fragile bond like a raw egg in their hand. They try to squeeze every ounce of productivity and work out of employees, burying them in non-competes, monitoring everything they do, and turning the pressure up, while compressing workloads and timelines. Their response to the uncertainty is to seek more control of employees. They mistakenly believe this effort will ensure every dollar spent is producing maximum results. This is what has increasingly become known as Productivity Paranoia.
The Weak Grip
They can grip too loose, neglecting the fragile bond, like dropping a raw egg on the floor. They see hard times coming and abandon the rapport and relationship at the first sign of trouble. They start laying employees off, cutting back on hours, benefits, or pay as their default response to uncertainty, anxiety, or even a slight drop in the stock price. This is what’s typically referred to as Mass Layoffs or Hiring and Compensation Freezes.
The Stable Grip
They can grip with balance, and support the fragile bond to maintain its integrity. They provide the required attention, care, and long-term mutual benefit that the relationship was designed for. Yes, there may need to be increased workloads, and maybe some layoffs or wage freezes, but only when operationally necessary. The Stable Grip requires transparency and communicating the reality of the situation in an open and authentic manner that builds trust. This is about handling the situation that is best for your business long-term while caring about the short and medium-term needs of employees.
How employers handle this fragile relationship with their employees greatly impact the future success of their business.
What Does This Look Like?
When businesses abandon the mutual, long term benefit, for the short term personal advantage it puts cracks the relationship permanently and has a lasting effect on how the business attracts and retains talent in the future. Employees remember The Harsh Grip and The Weak Grip, and their response looks like “No One Wants To Work Anymore”, Quiet Quitting, and Zero Applicants. Plus this can impact the public’s perception of your company in the long term.
However, employees also remember The Stable Grip and the prioritization of the mutual benefit. Their response will look like sustained retention, high engagement, and improved performance and productivity. Plus The Stable Grip will become the cornerstone of your employer brand in the labour market.
What Do Employees Expect?
How businesses handle the relationship they have with their employees in the hard times is a lot more telling than how they handle it when things are good. Do your employees know that they can rely on the stability that you provide? Or do they know that they are likely to be suffocated or dismissed as soon as the pressure is on?
Recessions are scary, but they do not last forever. Tightening your grip or letting people go might help you in the short term, but they can have a devastating effect on your business once the recession lifts, and you are looking to attract new people, or even bring back the ones you dropped. People will remember how you handled the fragile relationship you had with them. They will tell others about their experience, encouraging them to work for you if you provided stability. They will also warn people to avoid you if you were too restrictive or threw them away. Don’t let the short-term struggles define your relationship with employees and hurt your long terms success.
Remember to think of the fragile bond like an Egg.
Using a Harsh Grip crushes the egg in your hand, destroying its integrity.
Using a Weak Grip neglects the egg in your hand, dropping it at the first sign of trouble.
Using a Stable Grip supports the egg in your hand, balancing its care.