How to Rebuild Morale After Layoffs
Companies that have recently downsized face more challenges ahead: rebuilding morale after layoffs.
According to a study of more than 4,000 employees by Leadership IQ, 74% who kept their jobs amidst a corporate layoff say their own productivity has declined. The same study found that 69% of survivors say the quality of their company’s product or service has declined.
Many who remain after layoffs experience survivor’s guilt: “a response to an event in which someone else experienced loss but you did not” (Centerstone). Two questions are constantly top of mind for them: “Why not me?” and “Will I be next?”
Showing up for your employees is pivotal to re-engage and rebuild team morale. Here are some things you can do as a leader to engage your team and get them back on track:
1. Treat the people you let go well – If handled well, people who are let go from a company can still respect your organization and wish you well. When remaining employees respect how you handled the process, they are more likely to stay loyal. Demonstrate that you realize the gravity of the message you are delivering and empathize with those who are let go. Provide clarity and transparency as to when the layoff will happen and why. Share next steps as to what they can expect…and go the extra mile in providing resources and networking support, helping them land well.
2. Allow remaining employees time to process – People need time to express and process their emotions before they can think rationally about what’s next. Just responding with, “Let’s get back to work as usual” doesn’t take into account your employees’ emotional state. Yes, there is work to be done; giving some time for them to process their emotions will allow them to get back to work more focused.
3. Be a sounding board – Don’t hide behind email. Show up for your team and schedule listening sessions, allowing each team member the opportunity to ask questions, share their feelings and process their emotions in a safe environment. Venting can be a great “emotional enabler” to help people start to work through their feelings.
4. Model the way – Acknowledge the validity of all emotions expressed and be open about your own emotions that you’ve experienced while making decisions and processing information. That said, when it comes to venting, find a safe place to do it behind closed doors. Seek out trusted advisors that you can vent fears and frustrations to. Your team needs to have confidence that you have a plan forward.
5. Demonstrate how much you value your remaining high performers – Continue to invest in their development and make plans for their future with the company. Show them that there is a vision beyond the layoffs and that they are a part of that vision.
6. Avoid burn-out by prioritizing work – With fewer people doing the work, something must drop. Otherwise, you risk burnout and/or a decline in work quality. Work together to identify non-important or less important work that can be dropped or set aside for a later day. Make sure everyone is clear on your new expectations.
7. Look for opportunities to partner with other teams – Where are there redundancies in your organization or opportunities to share services? Are there chances to lend resources during peak times? Partner with other teams within your organization to become more efficient and effective.
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