As fears of a looming recession continue to grow amid an inflationary economic environment, businesses have had to make some tough staffing choices. Layoffs are never ideal, but they are a necessary part of running a business at times. And while the financial implications of layoffs are generally positive for the business, the human consequences can be damaging—not only for those who’ve been let go, but also for the remaining employees.
No, their positions were not eliminated, for which they are likely thankful and relieved. But they have been impacted, nonetheless. Colleagues with whom they may have formed close relationships are now gone. Plus, with fewer team members to do the work, the workload increases—and so does the stress level. Compounding the issue further, they may be left wondering—fearing—“am I next?”
As a leader, what can you do to create a positive environment in the wake of the upheaval? You can’t change the fact that people lost their jobs, but you can make a difference for those who remain.
Bring people together
Difficult business decisions are “just business”—they are not personal. But they do affect people. After all, we are all just human beings doing the best that we can to support a quality of life that brings us contentment. Given that fundamental truth, the best thing you can do during these emotionally charged times of disruption is to focus on your team with a human-centric lens. Here are some approaches to consider:
- Acknowledge: Your team has been impacted, and they’re likely experiencing a range of emotions. They didn’t lose their job, but they likely lost something—a trusted colleague, the perception of job security, or even what once was a manageable workload. Communicate openly to your staff, acknowledge, and validate their feelings about it, and show your human side by sharing how you, too, have been impacted. Authenticity and transparency are key.
- Reassure: Do your best to reassure your team that their jobs are secure and share your appreciation for the hard work they do—and the work they may need to take on during the transition. Assure them that, though things may get harder before they get better, clearer skies are ahead.
- Create a safe environment: Encourage your team to share how they’re feeling and express their concerns without fear of repercussion. They may be angry, scared, frustrated, or shocked. Whatever emotions they are experiencing—likely a combination of all of the above—talking about it and getting it off their chest is an essential step toward healing.
- Ask for ideas: Let your team know they are valued members of the business. Give them a voice by asking for ideas, solutions to problems, inflections of innovation, and more. Instill in them the confidence to share their thought leadership with peers and leaders alike. Ask them for thoughts on what can be done better moving forward.
- Be a team: Whether your virtual, in-person, or a combination of the two, bring your people together in one form or another. Create that sense of togetherness among your team by having some fun together. This could be as simple as a virtual or in-person team lunch, a happy hour, a fun (non-business-related) team-building activity during your next team meeting, a workplace contest, and more. Levity and camaraderie are important.
Two-way communication, authenticity, empathy, and a little levity can go a long way in building your team’s psyche and motivating them to keep moving forward despite the setback.
Have you experienced layoffs recently? If so, what have you done to manage the after-effects with your staff? As always, I welcome your thoughts.