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Fearful, delighted and apocalyptic: The workers of the recession

By Mark Tutton, CNN
  • Business school professor says the recession affects employee behavior
  • He has identified seven types of recession-era employees
  • Managers must learn to respond to the individual needs of these groups

London, England (CNN) -- The Fearful, The Engaged, The Apocalyptic: They're not new Hollywood blockbusters, they're three of the seven types of recession-era employees identified by a new survey.

According to academic Douglas Reid, recession is a "psychologically felt phenomenon" that affects employee behavior.

Reid surveyed more than 250 managers enrolled on MBA courses at Queen's and has identified seven distinct types of employee, who each respond to the recession in a certain way.

The global business professor at Queen's School of Business, in Ontario, Canada, argues that if recession-era managers are to get the most of their employees, they need to understand the different motivations and needs of their employees.

In the report, Reid writes: "Simple, economically rooted logic suggests that employees will become more attentive to their work during a recession, motivated by the fear of job loss.

"Like most conventional wisdom about managing during a recession, this logic would be wrong. My research has revealed that managers encounter a wider range of on-the-job behaviors than simple economic reasoning predicts.

"Not surprisingly, relying on fear as a management tool is as poor a choice during a recession as it is during a boom."

So what are these seven employee types and how should managers respond to them?

Reid calls them The Terminated, The Fearful, The Indifferent, The Delighted, The Apocalyptic, The Longers, and The Engaged.

The Terminated are the employees who have been laid off, but whose memory lives on in the minds of those still at work. Reid says managers must take remaining employees' minds off redundancies and focus them on recovery, without misleading them about the risk of future cutbacks.

The Fearful are the employees who think they are next for the chop. Reid says this group may need written assurances that their job is safe.

The Indifferent believe the recession is someone else's problem. This group tends to have strong loyalty to their division, and managers must try to make them consider the needs of the company as a whole.

The Delighted are high performers who are making the most of lower prices and discounts in the marketplace. This group could be a problem once the recession is over and prices go back up.

The Apocalyptic believe that the recession presents a necessary correction for capitalism. With this group, Reid suggests managers "Focus on their company's business rather than the system-wide effects the recession will engender."

The Longers have their sights set on redundancy and a juicy severance package. Managers need to remind them that work isn't just about earning money.

The Engaged understand the consequences of the recession for their employer and do what they can help the business recover. These employees are invaluable to a manager, and to rival firms. The key is to keep hold of them.