Angry, overly emotional employees are a natural byproduct of the stressful times banks are experiencing.
"We're all trying to survive changes in the workplace," said Mary Weber, a trainer for Keye Productivity Center, Kansas City, Mo. "Making do with fewer employees, lots of organizational changes, the fast pace of changes, all lead to fearful, insecure, and angry employees."
Employees who are upset can be trouble because they are frequently unproductive and can lower the morale of their co-workers, said Ms. Weber in a recent management seminar.
Keeping It Inside
And even employees who don't turn into firecrackers may be seething on the inside.
"There is a lot of insecurity in the marketplace right now," said Nancy Seever, vice president and manager of corporate training and the career counseling center for First Chicago Corp.
"People feel that if they lose their job they're not going to find another. They're turning inward - not taking risks. They're angry. but they're too savvy to show the anger."
The good news is that managers can learn how to handle these problematic employees.
"You want people to describe their anger, rather than direct it at you," said Ms. Weber of Keye.
To that end, bankers should encourage open communication between supervisors and employees. If an employee seems overly emotional, the supervisor should talk to him or her privately.
"To disarm hotheads, listen to them without interrupting," suggested Ms. Weber. "Give direct, honest answers to their questions. Do not get defensive."
Ms. Weber also recommended that the supervisor clarify any incorrect information cited by the employee. Often, when employees rely on rumors instead of communications from management, distorted information is passed around as truth. The manager's job is to make the real truth known to all employees.
When mergers and layoffs are involved, bank managers must let their employees know what to expect, said Ms. Weber.
"If people are going to be let go, let them be the first to know," she advised. "And help the survivors too. Give them information so they know why the layoffs were necessary."
BankAmerica Corp., which merged with Security Pacific Corp. in April, continues to face the problem of fearful, angry employees.
According to John Cammidge, senior vice president and director of employee relations at the San Francisco-based bank, there are five key steps to handling overwrought employees:
* Don't hide from emotions. Accept and respond to employee reactions to change. Ask employees to express their feelings.
* Communicate honestly.
* Foster group cohesion.
* Address morale problems.
* Reinforce quality and customer service. Remember that there's still a job to be done.
Extremely fast growth can also cause employees to become fearful.
Take, for example, the mortgage sales department of the Boston Co. This department doubled its mortgage volume in 1991 and management anticipates almost doubling volume again this year, said Robert Douglas, senior vice president and national mortgage sales manager.
Although all the employees were asked to take on a lot more work, Mr. Douglas said, few complained - and morale did not decline significantly.
Regular communications from the top helped keep employee resentment to a minimum. Managers put out a publication to keep workers informed of what was happening each step of the way.
"We've been trying to turn it into a positive - more opportunity for promotions, more opportunity for people to come on board," Mr. Douglas said.