At a time of close to 10% national unemployment, those of us fortunate enough to be fully employed can’t help but be aware that the scales are tipped toward employers these days. Many organizations have had one or two—perhaps more—rounds of layoffs. Where does this leave those who remain post layoffs?
These days, the people we coach (yes, even senior leaders) are finding it harder and harder to voice their opinions, weigh in on key issues or simply join discussions for fear that they will be vulnerable to the next round of layoffs should they push too much or stray too far from the boss’s views. A lot is lost when this kind of risk aversion and isolation takes over teams and organizations.
During times like these, leaders would be well-advised to pay attention to some key aspects of the work culture to make it more hospitable, ensuring that those who remain are not just getting by and surviving, but thriving. Here are 4 ways to make a positive difference in your team post layoffs:
- The sense that a (or another) round of layoffs is impending can cause more stress than just about anything. Provide stability—psychological stability—to your employees. Be transparent about why layoffs were necessary (explain other options that had first been considered) and provide as much visibility as possible into the future. Be honest, and be compassionate.
- Connections are lost after layoffs. Networks can be broken or damaged. Find ways to help people connect, to rebuild networks and to strengthen teams. During change and uncertainty, trusting relationships at work matter more than ever.
- Like a clam, people close up when they sense danger. Layoffs and a sense that the economy is not yet stabilized contribute to a feeling of extreme vulnerability. Leaders must make the culture welcoming of diversity of opinions and ideas—otherwise innovation will come to a screeching halt when you need it most. And, people will isolate. Go out of your way to encourage contributions from all team members at all levels, and act on good ideas.
- Looking out for Number 1 can take over during times of scarcity. To counter this, incentivize collective goals and downplay individual contributions that don’t serve the common good. Rally your team around exciting, achievable stretch goals that will make a difference and boost confidence. Give your team the experience of efficacy during a time when they may otherwise feel powerless—these kind of positive emotions spread like wildfire and help restore an energized, optimistic and fun environment.