I was in a locker room, getting changed when a woman asked the above question. Someone offered a cough drop. “No,” she said, “I’m diabetic and I’m starting to feel shaky.”
Well, everyone went into overdrive. One of the staff managed to pull out a bottle of juice they keep on hand for just such an emergency. I offered her a nutri-grain bar that I had in my purse. (Always prepared!) She took the juice and turned down the nutri-grain bar. (“I’m allergic to wheat,” she said.)
A few minutes later, I overheard a conversation between this woman and a friend.
Friend: I didn’t know you were diabetic.
Diabetic Woman: Yeah, and I hadn’t eaten all day. (It was 5:30 p.m.)
Friend: Do you control it with medication or do you have to do insulin shots?
Diabetic Woman: I don’t do either. I lost my blood sugar monitor as well, and I haven’t been to the doctor in a year.
Diabetic Woman: I suppose I should go.
Now, let’s recount the facts. Woman is diabetic, she hasn’t eaten for at least 8 hours, she has no emergency food, she’s allergic to one of the most common foods (wheat) that someone might have on hand, she doesn’t take her medication, she doesn’t monitor her blood sugar and she doesn’t visit her doctor. However, everyone and their dog rushes all over to give her something to eat when she “needs” it.
This has not turned into a medical blog. (If it did, it would be extremely boring, seeing how my medical stories are limited to regularly scheduled doctors appointments and the occasional trip to the ER where the offspring got her cast.) This is, however a business blog.
I think a lot of businesses run the way this woman runs her life. We know we have problems, but rather than monitor them (blood sugar monitor), work on solutions (visit your doctor), implement proposed solutions (take your medicine), make necessary sacrifices (eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals), and work for our own success (do all of the above, and carry our own emergency food supply), we work on the panic principle.
Aaack, my business is dropping. I must do something now! Hire a consultant, cut 10% of my workforce, slash wages and benefits. Something! Right now! Quick!
What if we worked to anticipate problems? What if HR did it’s job and analyzed how people were working and what things were really necessary? What if we helped the business to reorganize before the “shakiness” set in. Then, we have lots of different options.
Yes, sometimes a diabetic has problems with blood sugar despite all their efforts. This woman made no effort until it was a real problem. What if no one had had any juice? She could have been in serious trouble.
What if we see sales declining or costs rising and we just sit around and wait until it reaches crises proportions? Then we panic, and make decisions that probably aren’t the best. These decisions can be damaging in the future as well.
Sure, sometimes what we need is to cut headcount. I think sometimes layoffs are an important tool for business growth. But, sometimes, we use layoffs as panic measures to reduce costs without really thinking of what the consequences will be. How will the business function after headcount is down? Are you changing your processes or will you just make your remaining staff work harder? What good is having your remaining staff continue to do what has been done all along? The underlying problem (whatever it is) will not be fixed, and it will eventually rise up and bite you again. Then you’ll be in a panic, searching for juice.
Don’t rely on someone to save you or your business at the last moment. Make sure you have plan and are monitoring it. Make changes that are good for your business, not reactionary, and you’ll avoid most of the blood sugar crashes.