By Hannah McNamara

When people are under pressure at work, it's all too easy for one vocal member of staff to upset the rest of the team. Rumours and gossip start to spread and de-motivation starts to set in. What can you do to keep staff as motivated as possible when times are tough?

Executive Coach Hannah McNamara from HRM Global works with leaders and managers in top companies and offers some suggestions:

1. Keep the lines of communication open

Nothing stresses people out more than not knowing what's going on. People will think the worst at the slightest encouragement. Make sure that your team can come to you and get answers to questions. Equally when you have information that's relevant to them, make sure you keep them all in the loop. Don't make the mistake of assuming that because someone was in the office when you were telling someone else about it that they were listening or even realised that you were talking about something which was relevant to them. Have frank discussions and include all the people who are involved.

2. Be honest with them - well, as much as you can be!

Following on from number 1, you need to be as honest as possible with your team. Of course, this doesn't mean that you divulge confidential information or discuss sensitive information inappropriately. Being honest with them means explaining the reasons why things are happening. If priorities have changed, your team needs to know about it and when they understand the reasons why, they are generally a lot more co-operative than you might give them credit for. They may not like what they're being asked to do - e.g. rush a promotion through - but if they understand why it's important, you'll get a much higher level of buy-in from them.

3. Keep a stiff upper lip

It's your duty as a manager to act as a buffer between your team and the tier above you, if one exists. To keep your team motivated and productive you may need to shield them from any politics, panic or doom and gloom, but more than that you must lead by example. Even when things are tough, you've got to hold it together, be confident and be decisive - this is not a time for dithering or procrastinating. As far as getting the job done is concerned, it's business as usual.

4. Be more strategic

At times like these, you need to be thinking ahead. Let your team deal with the minutiae and details. Get bogged down in these and you'll find you get buried in day to day activities and all inspiration or creativity has been sapped from you. When times are tough, the whole organisation is relying its managers to spot opportunities, improve processes and find ways to get customers buying again. You simply won't be able to do this if you're running around like a headless chicken fire-fighting.

5. Nip gossiping in the bud

Gossip has the potential to either damage someone's reputation or cause widespread panic around the office, particularly if people are gossiping about looming redundancies, so the moment you find out about any gossip, deal with it. The last thing you want is your best member of staff to go and find another job because they thought, incorrectly, that they might be made redundant. I'm going to be serious here now, if you know that you're the office gossip, you need to stop. Listen, by all means to find out what's going on, but don't start rumours or get caught up spreading them.

This might all seem very heavy and draining when you're back at the office, but the reality is that your team needs you now more than they have ever needed you before. They need you to be strong and to lead them through this period of uncertainty.

Hannah McNamara is the author of the ebook "10 Ways to Sabotage Your Own Career: Are you making these mistakes?". You can download a free copy from http://www.hrmcoaching.com/downloads/free-coaching-downloads/

For more information about executive coaching services and management training from HRM Global, go to www.hrmglobal.co.uk