How leaders can restore trust in their teams after a layoff | By Gustavo Razzetti (2023)

Five Steps to Restore Confidence, Overcome Survivor Guilt, and Regain Motivation

Layoffs are uncomfortable for everyone involved, including those who deliver the bad news. Most leaders fear firing employees, but don't realize that morale can plummet very quickly: surviving employees feel anxious, insecure, and undervalued.

Whatever the reason for layoffs, the consequences are more challenging: Research has long shown the negative impact on employees and company performance. Layoffs may save money in the short term, but they create more problems than they solve.

In onefor studyAccording to Leadership IQ, 74% of employees who kept their jobs during a layoff say their own productivity has decreased.another studyfound that a 1% reduction in the workforce resulted in a 31% increase in voluntary turnover the following year.

Layoffs can be stressful for both employees and managers, but bouncing back from them can be even more difficult. So what can you do during this difficult time?

Here are some tips and ideas to help your team recover.

The Morning After - Dealing with Survivor Guilt

Until the 1970s, mass layoffs were synonymous with corporate bankruptcy. Over time, they have become a sign of business competitiveness. Jack Welch cut the job of one in four GE employees. He paved the way for other companies to follow his lead.

Mass layoffs have a profound psychological and financial impact on people. Even those who find another full-time job suffer from anxiety, self-esteem, andtrust issues.

There are times when companies have valid reasons to restructure. But there is no excuse for doing this inhumanely.

Companies often show their best culture when they hire and reveal their worst culture when they fire. CEO Vishal Garg rose to fame, but for the wrong reasons.shot 900Agent on an unannounced Zoom call. To make matters worse, he went on a rant on social media, calling employees "lazy" and "robbing the company" for not being productive enough. Garg apologized too late in the game: he was suspended "effective immediately."

The way your company handles layoffs also has a lasting impact on survivors. TOfor studyfound that they resulted in a 41% decrease in job satisfaction, 36% in organizational commitment, and 20% in job performance.

While losing your job is hard, it's also hard to survive a layoff. It causes confusion, anxiety, anger and fear. One third of the employeesfeel guiltyabout keeping their jobs when their peers didn't. People quickly switch from a sense of security to a sense of regret.

It's called survivor's guilt, and it's a real phenomenon. The term refers to the regret people feel after surviving a mass layoff. The emotional toll creates a lasting effect.

(Video) How to Prepare for the New Normal – webinar by Gustavo Razzetti

survivor's guilthe went awaya post-traumatic disorder that affects survivors of genocides, mass shootings, and accidents. This leaves the survivors sad and guilty, wondering why they were saved and others weren't. During layoffs, people experience a similar psychological reaction.

In the workplace, surviving guilt leads to absenteeism, burnout, low morale, mistrust, and reduced productivity.

Ignoring these emotions can lead to bigger problems.

Normalize survivor guilt by being open about its impact on your team.

Acknowledge and deal with negative feelings as soon as possible. Be open to the good, the bad, and the ugly about employees. During this time of grieving, give them space to express their concerns in an open and personal way.

Give people time to process their emotions. Look forsuggeststhat individuals must rebalance perceived inequality in the case of survivor's guilt. They want to balance their perceived unfair advantage of surviving.

Remind your team members that their contributions are just as valuable now as they were before they were laid off. Keep communication open and see how people feel.

5 Steps to Help Your Employees After a Layoff and Overcome Survivor Guilt

1. Explain why the dismissal occurred

Lack of information can scare people. Not understanding why there was a layoff can make the situation worse. As one employee of a large technology company told me: “I don't know what caused the layoff; I don't understand the logic. He looks like the first round and he could be fired in the next.

It is important to discuss the event as soon as possible. Your team will want to understand why this happened. Be honest, but also be clear and concise. Explain the challenges and how the reorganization will help get the company back on track.

Managers fear difficult conversations because they fear how people will react. However,look forIt shows that the other party is just as concerned and anxious as you are. Awkward conversations are difficult for everyone involved, but you have to cross that bridge to regain trust. Take the first step.

Confirm the people who left the team and restart the team. Address questions and concerns openly. This helps employees understand that the decision was not personal and that it was made for the good of the organization.

according to ourrecently published study, open communication is the hallmark of the best work cultures. People don't like bad news, but they don't like being left in the dark. Layoffs can damage trust, especially when employees feel the process has been mismanaged or the company has withheld important information.

Transparency reduces fear and uncertainty among employees. One study found that employees received the most information about an informed layoffhappierwith the way in which the process was carried out.

Avoid being the hero. It's okay to admit that you don't have all the answers. People respect authentic leaders more than perfect ones. Avoidtoxic positivity, also be

Joy during a crisis can be counterproductive.

During the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP workers were exposed to optimistic messageslose faithin the company and its managers. However, those whose managers openly acknowledged the crisis and called on their teams to clean up the mess reacted more positively. They felt safe because their bosses were reserved and transparent.

2. Say goodbye with dignity

The way organizations say goodbye to an employee says everything about their culture. Most people show their darker side when times are hard. Layoffs aren't always fair and often affect talented employees who have contributed to the company for years. Be compassionate and empathetic.

Empathy isn't just about being kind, it's also about being authentic. Many leaders make the mistake of pretending to be nice or caring. An analysis of 48Termination letter for all employeesfrom various companies showed striking similarities: Executives like to make up stories to justify their decisions. Two thirds mentioned the need for greater efficiency, indirectly blaming the victims.

Most were externally blamed (economic forces, uncertainty, or slowdown), asked for a positive outlook, and the word 'layoff' was rarely used. Also, leaders try to connect emotionally but fail to be authentic. Professor Ayelet Fishback told the Washington Post: "Leaders try to remind people that they are family, except some people are not family anymore."

A dignified farewell requires much more than sensitive words. Leaving employees need concrete help, not just "emotional support and love."

As the pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill, Airbnb had to lay off nearly 25% of its workforce. by Brian Cheskyopen letterfor all employees it is synonymous with transparency, modesty and care. The CEO took the brunt of the decision from him and provided guidance.

Airbnb offered a package that offers severance pay, lower limits for claiming your shares, expanded healthcare benefits and an alumni talent directory to help people find jobs. The company took matters into their own hands by being helpful and not just compassionate.

The way you treat people during a release is the way the survivors think you will treat them. Say goodbye with dignity. Even a simple LinkedIn recommendation or a job recommendation can go a long way.

3. Rebuild community, rebuild trust

Layoff can bring up many emotions, including paranoia and mistrust among team members.

Losing a job is a traumatic event. 85% of respondentsEdelman's 2022 Confidence Barometerthey ranked job loss as their top concern. Layoffs break the basic contract of trust between employers and employees: no matter how well you do your job, you can still get fired.

Keep the human factor in the foreground. Your team will feel the loss of trusted friends, colleagues, and experts. These people have worked hard to make your business successful; They deserve respect and kindness.

After being laid off, people often have the feeling that they no longer our studio71% of leaders said that fostering a sense of belonging and being part of a community is critical to team success. People want to work with great professionals, both personally and professionally. When team members are fired, trust is lost.

The best way to re-establish belonging is to emphasize continuity. A new study from the Academy of Management advises against common assumptions. The best way to talk about change is to focusWhat is it?NOChange.

When people are fired, it affects the identity and emotions of the team. Fear of uncertainty, loss of control, and overwork activate defense mechanisms and push people into survival mode. Leaders can overcome this knee-jerk reaction by developing a vision of continuity.

Strengthen the sense of community by reconnectingteam purpose: Why your team exists and what impact it has on the organization and beyond. Ignite passion for existing projects and service to your clients. Emphasize the strengths and abilities of the remaining team members. Inspire people to keep doing great work.

Create networking and development opportunities to restore trust. Avoid running to focus only on work; Take time to strengthen interpersonal relationships. Provide opportunities for team building, professional development and wellness. establishsuccessful partnershipsso that everyone has their own reference person for advice, support or guidance.

Restoring a sense of continuity will help you regain trust and belonging.

4. Manage workload by reducing priorities

After being laid off, people feel that their job has become even more difficult.

Organizations often plan a reorganization based on expected efficiencies that never materialize. Eliminating people -or functions- does not mean eliminating inefficient systems such asunnecessary meetingsor restrictive rules. In fact, the remaining employees take on additional tasks on top of your already full plate.

After the massive layoffs, companies need to prioritize tasks and projects. This helps them avoid burnout and increase productivity.

The danger of not prioritizing is that everything seems important, the long-term vision is replaced by short-term goals, and the wrong tasks end up sapping people's energy. When everything is urgent, productivity suffers. Worse yet, teams end up solving the wrong problem.

Learn to work smarter, not harder. Focus on efficiency and quality over quantity. Eliminate tasks that don't move the needle and focus on high-impact tasks. Reduces the need for control and that everything has to be perfect.

deprioritization practice: When a new task becomes a priority, another must become less important. Effective prioritization is a zero sum game. You cannot prioritize one task without deprioritizing others.

Just as the humans had to leave, some tasks had to be removed.

Organizations need to set realistic expectations and goals. When a company cuts staff, it must face the consequences. Also, some areas like customer service and innovation can't really be optimized. Short-term savings in these areas can come at a high cost in the long run.

5. Focus on the future

Survivor's guilt affects not only employees, but also managers.

While layoffs have a profound impact on employees, the impact on managers is often overlooked. Managers also feel guilty that they have been fired while others have been fired. The guilt may be compounded by the fact that some of their peers have worked with them for years. Watching team members lose their jobs can be emotionally draining.

Many managers find it difficult to accept their role in this process. Some feel guilty about their role. Others feel they made the wrong decision or that they could have done more to avoid the layoffs.

Guilt feelings can course through managers and make them overly cautious when approaching their team members. They may walk around their teammates as if they are on eggshells to avoid potential conflict or negativity. This can lead to a lack of leadership and increased insecurity on the team.

On the other hand, some managers can become tougher and more demanding when they make a difficult decision, forcing their team members to work harder even when they are already overworked.

Executives must deal with the guilt that comes with layoffs. If they have too much guilt or ignore it completely, it won't work in the long run.

Start by acknowledging your feelings. What is to blame? It's natural to feel conflicted after a difficult decision. Seek support from teammates or coaches.

Keep the mission present and alive.Look forshows that, after a layoff, visible, accessible and open leaders reduce the probability of a drop in productivity and quality by 70% and 65%, respectively.

It is important to reconnect with the purpose and long-term goals of the company. Executives often feel guilty when discussing the future after being fired. But once your team has processed the sad news, it's time to move on. use this opportunityto restart your computerdevelop new strategies, reorganize tasks and optimize resources.

To move past the past, your team can build new skills or explore new opportunities for growth and development. You might consider offering training programs, career counseling, or coaching to reinvigorate your team.

Practice self care. Taking care of yourself helps you take care of your team. To bring people together after a layoff, try to take meaningful breaks, get plenty of rest, and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. allow breaksto reset the brain, thus reducing the build-up of accumulated stress.

Build trust after termination

Layoffs can be challenging for everyone involved. It is important to take care of your team. Be transparent about the layoff process and communicate clearly with them during this difficult time.

Survivor's guilt affects both employees and managers. Addresses feelings and normalizes emotional stress. Leaders need to restore trust in the organization, manage workloads effectively, and focus on building a better future. You need to promote wellness by living it yourself.


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