Will 2012 become the year of employee backlash?

What can communicators do to help staff be more effective and feel less pressured?


The beginning of the year always brings a tidal wave of economic projections. Some are overbearingly positive. Others forecast more doom, gloom and despair than most of us care to think about.

The spectrum this year is as wide and entertaining as ever, but this one bold prediction from Forbes Judy Martin commands some attention—she says 2012 will be the year of employee backlash.

In an era where pencil-thin margins are generally the norm, the idea that employees have been squeezed harder than ever is almost a given. But Martin’s speculation poses an interesting question:

Will 2012 be the year that pressure on the workforce builds up to become a larger problem?

The employment situation

Jobs are still in short supply. Workers still count themselves lucky to be employed. And the workforce as a whole is still stretched to the limit. These things have not changed much in the past year.

The new consideration for all of us in the business world is boundaries—how long can employees be pushed this hard and still be effective?

The pressures that have been piled upon an over-extended workforce are not going away overnight … but maybe, just maybe, they will start to relent.

As this happens, will employees immediately seek some reprieve and demand change? I don’t agree with Martin’s depiction of employees charging the C-suite with pitchforks. But I do feel strongly that the war for top notch talent is about to heat back up.

Looking ahead at 2012

The situation: employees are under duress. This has been a building, worsening trend for several years. And all people will eventually reach their limit.

From a talent retention and recruitment standpoint, the key to 2012 is going to be innovation in employee-effectiveness.

Here’s a fact: a workforce under constant pressure will be less effective over time.

Here’s another one: everything we can do as employers to lessen the pressure on our employees will benefit us in the long run.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Whether we make it any closer to the exit this year remains to be seen. But when we do get there and employees feel like they have options again, will your workforce want to stay or leave?

That’s a complicated question with a complex answer. But there are things we can, and should, do in the mean time to stack the deck in our favor. It starts with giving our employees the resources they need right now to manage their work—and their lives—effectively.

Dean Debnam is CEO of Workplace Options. Contact him at dean@ddebnam.com or follow Workplace Options on Twitter @workplaceoption. This post first appeared on TLNT.

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