Fear Of Redundancy Is a Rotten Motivator

Keeping Your Employees on a Knife Edge is Completely Unfair

Fear of job loss
The fear of redundancy. Getty Images

When it comes to advertising, design, and creativity in general, one word that should be banished from the lexicon is redundancy.

Fear in itself is not a bad thing in advertising. While creatives should never fear failure, there should be a healthy dose of fear instilled in the art director and copywriter team to do great work. Otherwise, they can become complacent, and start throwing out mediocre ideas.

However, fearing the loss of their job, that’s something else entirely. If the agency has recently lost a client, you owe it to the staff to keep them updated on the situation. These are people with lives, and families. They deserve the truth.

But worse than layoffs forced upon the agency by the loss of clients, is something far more underhanded and unnecessary - reorganization.

As far back as 1957, historian Charlton Ogburn had this to say about it:

We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

Basically, when you reorganize a business, you are bringing about chaos, fear, and a massive loss in morale. Reorgs, as they’re called, always come with redundancies and layoffs, too. So, when the whispers hit the water coolers about a potential reorganization coming down the pike, management has to ways to approach it: address it, or ignore it.

Sadly, the latter is the chosen method, and it instills and huge feeling of uncertainty and fear in everyone who works in the building.

Now, no one is saying that businesses do not have a right to reorganize if there is something fundamentally wrong. If it is essential, then it must be done. BUT, it must be handled correctly.

If you know, for instance, that an employee is going to lose his or her job in six months’ time, you have a duty to let them know as soon as possible. Finding another job in this market, and in this profession, could easily take six months anyway. Yes, that person may find a job sooner rather than later, and leave before you have finished with them. However, that’s only fair. They are not going to be doing a good job anyway if they fear being laid off. Far better to tell them when you know, and be a good manager.

However, if you leave the situation unchecked, the fear and uncertainty will spread throughout the agency like a cancer. Soon, everyone will be afraid. You will have people you depend upon, and who are in no danger of losing their jobs, putting their duties to one side so that they can start job hunting.

Gossip will become toxic. Every meeting you call will bring about heart palpitations and high anxiety.

The whole organization will cease to function effectively. And all because there is a rumor that a reorg is coming.

So, moving forward, here is what you must do.

If you are planning to reorg your department, or the whole company, call a meeting and let people know as soon as you possibly can. Yes, you will need to speak to HR if your company is big enough to warrant an HR department.

Talk to the individuals who you are planning to move, promote, demote, or most importantly, let go. They deserve it.

And finally, if there are no plans to reorg, or your plans are minimal, let everyone know too! A simple email can do the trick.

The sooner you address it, either way, the better off you will be. Fear of redundancy will never motivate people to do a better job; quite the opposite.