Losing a resource in your team is always a tough break. Someone else needs to pick up the work, there are some things that you find out weren’t done, some things that may have sat in a hiatus for a while, and it now becomes your responsibility.

As we always like to say, people don’t like change. However, change is really the only constant in life. Adjusting to a period of tighter resources, a gap in the team or a period of uncertainty is always stressful and coping mechanisms jump into high gear. We’ve all been in a position where a colleague’s contract has finished or they have resigned and moved on, but it impacts those that stay behind because the work doesn’t stop and now there is one less person to do it.

How do you cope? How has your manager coped with that?

Your team should always have a strategy or a list of goals that need to be achieved for the quarter, bi-annual or annually and there should a progress update held regularly to ensure people are on track or that things are actually getting done and to critically reprioritise the work loads. In every team I have worked in during my (short) HR career, the lack of this has always amazed me. There is an immediate jump to “oh my gosh, how are we going to manage” rather than sitting down and thinking “ok, so what is mission critical that we need to focus on and what can we put on hold?”.

Prioritising, planning and clear objectives will make sure your team and manager don’t lose all your hair and still get a good nights sleep by not trying to do five peoples work, when you only have 4 people to do it. It is easy and common to say “everything is a priority”. Well no, not everything is a priority, there are clearly some pieces of work that ARE priority, and other pieces of work that need to be done, but the organisation won’t fall over if they are put on hold for a time.

This follows on from my previous blog “Why we shouldn’t stress”. Not enough focus is put on clear objectives, priorities and goals when resources start diminishing or simply vanish while recruitment takes place. Managers need to understand that there is only so much capacity a person can take on, when another takes off and they also need to be very familiar with the individual capacity they have within a team. This is where the manager needs to step up and be clear about the next month, two months, three months etc, and how that is going to impact work streams, work loads and project timelines – especially in making this clear to their one-up manager. How much of this thinking actually actively happens?

When you are a man down, there are mission critical things to do which ensure on-going success and traction. To my mind these are:

  • Identifying current workloads and what is on the go (especially what was left behind from the previous colleague).
  • Reprioritise work streams with the team to ensure mission critical work is top priority and will get done.
  • Put on hold work that doesn’t need attention right now – this is where managers struggle because of the pressure on them.
  • Ensure priorities are clearly communicated to the team and to the wider client group so there is a clear understanding of what work is possible and what work isn’t (right now).
  • Support, support, support. Support is the one thing that will get people through. Be there for your team and support them all the way to stick to objectives and to get through a tough time.

HR Workaholic!