Successfully deal with fears, uncertainties, doubts and guilt
What is often overlooked in the chaos and emotion of a layoff is how to communicate with the staff that remain within an impacted team, known as ‘Survivors’.
For the HR professional, it is imperative that you work closely with management to develop a message that is clear, concise, consistent, realistically optimistic, and authentic.
Because they were not the ones listed for redundancy or retrenchment, Survivors can quite naturally feel bad for those impacted, or even feel relief, which understandably can be tinged with feelings of guilt that they were not chosen.
Survivors may also be doubting the future of their employer, be uncertain about their own job security, likely being very fearful that they may be next to be laid off.
Key points to ponder about messaging right
To mitigate against the impact of any fear, uncertainties doubts or guilt, it helps to work with leadership and management on the following:
- What were the reasons behind making the redundancy or retrenchment decision?
- How this was a challenging, but required decision?
- That the remaining staff should feel secure in their roles.
- That there are zero plans for any additional cuts (in the foreseeable future).
- That the company will promise to keep all staff informed of the progress towards stated goals, following the layoffs.
- How each employee is important to fulfil the aims of the business?
- Why this renews the business?
Air out any areas of concern
It’s HR’s role to take the lead on making sure that all leaders and managers are comfortable in articulating the above points and are clear on the message.
Ensure that before it is rolled out, everyone is thoroughly on the same page and any dissension within management is fairly and safely aired, appropriately handled and satisfactorily closed off.
It is an especially sensitive and particularly vital time for management to be totally together on this.
High engagement and retention of all remaining staff is paramount.
For the business to renew and thrive, it requires the right people to remain employed and not for people to leave for the wrong reasons or be ‘picked off’ by opportunistic recruiters or competitors.
Communicate in person
Wherever practicable, aim to present the message to Survivors in person. Ideally do this in small natural clusters of work groups, at departmental or divisional levels or at intimate ‘brown bag’ lunches with the CEO or leader.
Depending on the trust levels within your company, encourage open and two-way dialogue. The safer and more open all employees feel they can express themselves, the less stone-walling, insurrection, and unproductive behaviours will present.
Aim for management to cascade the message where scale is larger and to escalate and address any issues they could not answer or that require assurances from higher levels of leadership.
Above all else, provide time for people to ask questions – safely.
A word of caution: be careful with any written messages. Whatever is sent out – by e-mail or via Yammer, has a tendency to get ‘anonymously’ outside the business, into the mainstream media or on sites like Glassdoor or other ‘reputation’ sites.
Remember to also keep close with the leaders of the business, from management down to all supervisors – communicate often with and amongst them in the weeks and months, following the layoff decision.
It’s crucial that the message continues to be repeated and reinforced. Without doing so means there is a likelihood that it will be forgotten and that rumours and gossip will prevail.
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Want to read more about topic? See When You Are Laying Off Staff: Tips on Engaging Remaining Employees
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