Organisations must be honest with their employees and give them permission to have fun at work, according to Rita Bailey, former HR director of Southwest Airlines.
"You need to tell them the good, the bad and the ugly, and provide them with the information to answer their questions," she said.
Bailey enjoyed a long career with the Texas-based no-frills airline - the only one in the US whose profits increased after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
Speaking at an event organised by business advisers BDO Stoy Hayward in London last week, Bailey said through effective people management, the company had created the right type of culture, had seen profits rise for 33 consecutive years, and had never experienced any staff redundancies.
She said organisational adaptability was the key during turbulent times.
"We used to think of Southwest as a speedboat circling around the slow cruise ships because we had the ability to change so fast," Bailey said.