Managing Performance when they know they are leaving

Spent yesterday at an NHS conference. The unerlying subject on everyone’s mind was how to manage people when they know their organisation will be gone in two years. Companies in mergers and acqusitions face the same challenge. At the very least, senior people will have to compete for their role with their opposite number in the other organisations.

In these situations, many people leave – often the best people. There is usually a hiring freeze, so at best a temp can be bought in, but usually those remaining have to carry an extra burden.
Just keeping the show on the road is a challenge.
What is a manager to do – esepecially when they too are likely to be looking elsewhere.
The most important thing is not to deny the problem – acknowledge it. Allow people to express their fears and concerns for the future without fear, preferably in a managed way. Perhaps a weekly meeting where people can ask questions, raise issues arising from the situation, and explore solutions with others.
Do not belittle concerns of redundancy: ‘most people find redundancy is the best thing that ever happened to them’ is not a helpful response when someone is worrying about the future; nor is ‘never mind, you will find another job easily’. Instead, support your team by listening, empathising, and not offering empty quick fix solutions.
Then turn your attention to the present: keep people busy on work that has immediate impact as far as possible. They will be able to see the point of what they are doing, and even if distracted by other worries, see the need to deliver results. If people leave, try to involve others in picking up work by adding support, coaching and if possible training. Thus the additional work can become a new skill to add to a cv, or to help support an internal job application.
Most importantlly, try to keep your own worries away from the team – talk them over with your manager if you can, if not, find someone else to talk to. If your team see that you are calm, and focusing on delivering the job in hand, it will be easier for them to follow suit.
While I hope that few readers are in this situation right now, the reality is that many of you may well be. We hope that you are able to find coping mechanisms that work for you – and would be really interested in hearing about them.