Why Your Teams May Be Fighting at Work Post Brexit

brexit managing change Mar 12, 2019

According to the Metro, our Civil Service is looking at the possible imposition of martial law after a no-deal Brexit!

If you listen to the live debate in parliament and the special committee discussions live on YouTube it's worrying to think that chaos will erupt after March 29th with such diverse views across all parties and a no-deal still on the table.

Senior intelligence officials, warn there may be violence in the event of ‘no-deal’ or a second referendum. 

This is obviously worrying for everyone and has implications for every employer. True, these predictions are based on a no deal scenario but there are still implications for ANY deal.

Will these issues overflow into the workplace? London’s Met police were advising extra security for shops to guard against no-deal panic buying.

Perhaps predicting riots moving from streets to the workplace is a stretch but all leaders must be prepared for a negative impact if there is a no-deal.

Tensions will rise and so too will tempers.

Remember the Poll Tax in 1990? It went through Parliament without too much trouble, and the public largely shrugged their shoulders, to begin with. However, it became a different story when the new tax hit people in their pockets. An angry crowd of some 200,000 people descended into London and serious riots broke out.

How Might Brexit Tensions Amongst Employees Affect Your Business?

All businesses employ staff that can be categorised as working in one of the following:

  • In groups with minimal true teamwork.
  • In newly formed teams.
  • In teams that are underperforming.
  • In high performing teams.

Perhaps only the high performing teams have relationships between team members that are robust enough to withstand external knocks. In every case, individuals will bring into the workplace their views and experiences of the Brexit process. And in their personal worst-case scenario, a proportion of employees will not be able to hold back their emotions, feelings and words. Their behaviour will contribute to tensions within their teams. 

Are they going to go at loggerheads in the lunch break, start shouting, showing harassment or bullying behaviours?

These are times when emotions can run high.

  • Expect less co-operation from some.
  • Less communication between colleagues.
  • Less focus on the job that needs doing.
  • Less effort toward supporting colleagues with opposing views over Brexit.
  • Less willingness to go the extra mile.
  • More friction between individuals.
  • Increased levels of workplace harassment and bullying.
  • Expect employees to be distracted and unable to perform fully.

Leaders and managers have a responsibility and a role to play towards their employees in being especially open and transparent, AND also showing compassion and empathy towards any anxious feelings about insecurity and the changes that Brexit will cause.

  1. How will you mitigate these tensions amongst employees?
  2. How will you minimise frictions within your teams?
  3. How will you pull them together to support the changes you are going to need to make "deal or no-deal" work for you?
  4. Are your leadership skills developed enough that you can bring your team with you into a post-Brexit arena?
  5. How prepared are you for managing significant change?

Whatever changes you need to make in your business they will call upon your best leadership and change management skills, most likely beyond anything you have previously witnessed in your career.

What You Can Do to Help Employees Come to Terms With Brexit

We can take numerous concepts from change management principles to help employees make a transition during these unprecedented times of change. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. Don't Ignore the Issues

Simply assuming that everything will continue as normal is the worse thing you can do. Employees will be worried and anxious about their financial commitments, their livelihoods and their families and children's welfares.

They need to realise that you will do everything in your power to minimise the risks to their jobs and that you will keep them updated with news where you can. Tell them you don't have all the answers but you will do what you can to help ease their worries and concerns. Show them compassion and empathy.

2. Bring Together a Brexit Team

If you haven’t done so yet, establish a core Brexit team made up of senior managers, middle managers, trade union representatives, and your most engaged employees. The team can act as a steering group working together to process the news, gathering intelligence and creating possible scenarios that could affect the business and employees.

3. Allow Time For Unusual Business

As we move through the changes from Brexit whether deal or no-deal employees will be distracted and pre-occupied. Give them time to talk through these issues openly, facilitate debrief sessions to keep employees informed and aware. Allow them to talk amongst themselves and provide them with the information you are receiving and acting upon. These times are unusual so allow time for discussions on the topic of Brexit changes so people can share their concerns.

4. Allow and Facilitate Dialogue

As I have mentioned above, these times are ones where tempers and emotions can run high. Remainers and Leavers will have different views and many will be very vociferous in protecting and justifying their perspectives. If you thought sales and marketing could cause tensions, now bring into the equation the mixed views of Brexit and you can see how hot the working environment can become.

Do not ignore any situation that shows signs of these tensions. If necessary set time aside to address these differences perhaps using the skills of an external facilitator to help improve communications and to defuse issues. Your role as a leader must be to ensure a non-threatening work environment and to foster psychological safety for all during these times.

What to Do Whether There is a Deal or No Deal

Managing change is going to be the most called for skillset in the next few years. No matter what type of deal we have (assuming we leave) we are all going to face changes that will impact upon is all. These changes have risks and opportunities buried within them and how you manage these will have a big impact on the livelihoods and welfare for everyone in your organisation, department or team.

Ignoring the stresses and strains of change is to be negligent. Mental health-related sickness absence has already been on the rise in the UK for the past few years and can cost employers and the economy 8-15 billion pounds per year.  As leaders, we have a duty of care to ensure we minimise the impact of change on the health of employees. This means managing change effectively not just for the benefit of the bottom line but also for the welfare of employees.

To help leaders and managers across all types of organisations manage post-Brexit changes, deal or no deal we have developed a definitive guide and leadership toolkit. It helps leaders in preparing their organisation and teams so they can minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities that ARE coming post-Brexit.

To find out more about how the leadership toolkit can help you after March 29th click here NOW!


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