The Seven Behaviours of Recession-Era Employees identified by new QSB research

Posted on October 30, 2009

The Fearful, The Delighted and The Apocalyptic, among those identified.

On-the-job employee behaviours in recessionary times can be grouped into seven categories, each with attendant challenges and distinct management requirements, according to new research from Queen’s School of Business.

According to Douglas Reid, Associate Professor of Global Business at Queen’s School of Business, employees in recession-era workplaces typically fall into the following behaviour patterns:

• The Terminated: while not physically present in the organization, their memories linger and affect those that stay.

• The Fearful: these employees believe they will be cut next. They are ready to search for a new job but cling tenaciously to whatever certainty their existing situation affords.

• The Indifferent: this group is watching the recession occur and believe it is going to affect someone else.

• The Delighted: high performers who delight in the improvement in their situation relative to the average consumer via sales and discounts in the marketplace.

• The Apocalyptic: a small group that believes that the recession presents a necessary “reset” for a myriad list of failures in the existing system of capitalism.

• The Longers: Hoping for a severance package and optimistic they’ll obtain rapid alternative employment.

• The Engaged: The core of a company’s renewal efforts. They understand the consequences of the recession and what needs to be done to help the business recover.

“Managers encounter a wider range of on-the-job behaviours than simple economic reasoning predicts,” says Professor Reid. “Relying on fear as a management tool is as poor a choice during a recession as it is during a boom.”

Survey: Queen’s Executive MBAs Weigh In
On a related note, a recent survey of over 250 managers enrolled in executive MBA programs at Queen’s School of Business reveals that while half of the respondents (48 per cent) feel an increase in employment would be the strongest sign of recovery in their country, only one third (36 per cent) believe that their company will add employees over the next six months.

“Nervous employers want to ensure that the recovery is firmly established before adding to their workforce,” says Professor Reid. “But employers also need to recognize that engaged employees will be the core of any organization’s renewal efforts.”

Cautious optimism
Seven out of ten (72 per cent) respondents think the recession will be over by the second half of 2010, and the majority (61 per cent) believes their company will be well-positioned for success when the economy recovers. However, three in ten (29 per cent) admitted their organization would need time or resources to ramp back up.

One third (35 per cent) of Canadian and U.S. managers enrolled in Queen’s Executive MBA programs say they will believe the recession is over only when they hear it from the head of their country’s central bank. Other influencers mentioned include important customers (27 per cent), international bodies such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (23 per cent) and the leaders of their respective countries (10 per cent). Just five percent cited the opinion of the head of their own company as most influential.

Lessons learned?
Despite the widespread pain over the last year, fewer than half (44 per cent) indicated that the downturn is likely to cause a long-term, fundamental change in how their own company is managed. Those who do predict change cite productivity improvements combined with cost reduction as the most likely adjustment.

“Uncertainly often leads to excessive caution and decision paralysis,” says Professor Reid. “The goal for the remainder of 2009 should be to not let caution get in the way of building towards what is anticipated to be a better 2010.”

Professor Reid leads intensive two-day programs providing valuable insights into the drivers of the current economic recession, and a detailed examination of the decisions organizations should be taking to ensure that they are positioned to win when the recovery begins.

About the Survey
The survey was conducted between September 18 – 27, 2009 with 262 participants of Queen’s Executive MBA programs in classrooms and boardroom learning teams located across Canada and the United States.

About Queen’s School of Business:
Queen’s School of Business is one of the world’s premier business schools — renowned for exceptional programs, outstanding faculty and research, and the quality of its graduates. Canadian executives regard Queen’s as Canada’s most innovative business school, offering students academic excellence and a superior overall experience. Queen’s School of Business — where Canada’s first Commerce program was launched in 1919 — is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The School also delivers programs at locations across Canada, as well in the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.