Talk isn’t cheap

Managing your staff is challenging enough during an economic slowdown. Factor in the recent terrorist attacks, the loss of loved ones and the threat of war, and it’s difficult for anyone to focus on work. My advice?

Managing your staff is challenging enough during an economic slowdown. Factor in the recent terrorist attacks, the loss of loved ones and the threat of war, and it’s difficult for anyone to focus on work.

My advice? Communicate as openly as possible during times of crisis or when changes are afoot. Sure, some changes arrive without notice (i.e., surprise layoffs). But many other office changes will be less stressful if you keep your employees in the loop.

My first editor at Smart Partner, Ed Sperling, was very adept at setting my expectations and keeping me informed about our overall business. When Ed recruited me in 1998, he openly discussed Smart Partner’s potential relocation from Long Island to our corporate headquarters in New York. Translation: My cushy 20-minute commute could turn into a 90-minute marathon on the Long Island Rail Road–twice per business day! Still, Ed was quick to point out that the move made solid business sense as many of our sister publications–including Baseline, CIO Insight, Interactive Week, The Net Economy and PC Magazine–are in the Big Apple. Plus, it’s easier to share corporate resources (IT support, facilities management, etc.) if we’re all under one roof.

Now, three years after Ed first broached this subject, Smart Partner has made the move to New York. When the relocation became a reality a few weeks ago, I didn’t feel blindsided. Instead, I was proud to be a "New Yawker" during such challenging times. Naturally, I made some lifestyle changes to reflect my new routine. Rather than working in my physical office 12 or more hours each day, I now limit myself to nine hours in the office and put aside some work for my train ride. Truth be told, I’m writing this column during my morning commute.

So far, the relocation has gone smoothly for Smart Partner’s editorial staff. The reason? It all goes back to Ed’s knack for setting our expectations.

When Ed handed Smart Partner’s reins to me several months ago, our entire staff vowed to carry on his mandate for open communications. You’d be wise to follow a similar path. Stressful changes–at home and at work–will be the norm for months to come. Share as much information as you can with your staff, and you’ll reduce some potential mountains into mere molehills.