When employees are laid off or fired, it can damage the morale of the team members who remain. The dismissal of a colleague can also erode the trust and loyalty that your employees feel toward you, even if you had excellent reasons for making your decision. Here are three tips for helping your department maintain high team morale in the aftermath of layoffs or firings:
Acknowledge the situation
There’s no way to have a comfortable conversation when you’re talking about workers who you’ve had to let go. Unfortunately, there is also no good way to avoid having that conversation. Simma Lieberman, a California management consultant says, “One of the worst actions management can take during this time is to not acknowledge the situation and the impact it is having on employees. This only makes the situation worse.” Being proactive in initiating a discussion of these events allows you to address employee anxiety and clear up misperceptions. Worker trust can only be rebuilt within a climate of transparency.
Present a continuity plan
Your employees will have two big questions in their minds following layoffs or firings, and a continuity plan is necessary to address both of these questions. The first question is: Is my job safe? To renew a sense of engagement within your company, you need to lay out a clear plan to show your workers why you need them and how their contribution is crucial to your mission. The second question you’ll hear is: Who’s going to cover the extra work? This should be clearly addressed with specifics and you should also be open to feedback from those employees whom you expect to shoulder the extra burden.
Head off further turnover
It might seem as though the workers who still have jobs after a round of layoffs or firings would breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, however, research published in Harvard Business Review notes that companies typically see “a substantial increase in voluntary departures after layoffs, even if the downsizing was small.” Watching a colleague lose their source of livelihood is disturbing for the whole team, and uncertainty and discouragement run rampant in the wake of that disruption. The Harvard research warns that your highest performers are the likeliest to quit after losing members of their team. As a manager, you’ll need to direct some specifically encouraging energy to these capable employees, emphasizing to them that the downsizing has opened up new doors to advancement for them.
It’s never easy to let workers go, and dealing with the aftermath can be tricky. Handled correctly, though, team morale can be maintained and productivity protected.