How to Lead During Layoffs

Career Blog

Being laid off impacts our sense of self as much as it does our wallet. Practical matters such as health care and our ability to pay the bills is suddenly jeopardized. Employees who define themselves, as least in part, by their profession experience a double loss – income and identity.

So how can organizations, and more importantly, managers maintain a positive relationship with the outgoing employee in this, the most difficult of circumstances? If you value the connection, endeavor to display these three behaviors.

  1. Transparency: Assuming it’s not a performance issue, employees want to know why them and why now. Corporate speak will kill any hope of an ongoing relationship. Where possible, transparently present the actual reason for both the reduction in force and their dismissal. There is a big difference between a post-merger, “synergy capture” exercise and a market downturn that jeopardizes the business.
  2. Trust: Knowing why helps ease the initial shock, but impacted employees also want to believe that the transition out of the organization is fair. This includes everything from severance to outplacement support. Lend whatever help you can.
  3. Empathy: Managers who can acknowledge the impacted employee’s feelings, empathize with the individual, and follow up on the promise of connection and support are more likely to maintain positive relationships.

In the end, people don’t work for companies. They work for managers. If you want to be someone people long to work for, you have to support staff in both good and tough times.

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