Those who dodged the bullet and retained their jobs when others were made redundant
are considered the lucky ones.
But the reality is, those left behind are most likely feeling angry, fearful, defensive, resentful and lacking in morale. How does the team survive after redundancy?
These survivors are a much-maligned group — at the end of the day they are still employed while others aren’t. But instead of just expecting “survivors” to get on with things as normal, companies need to realise that many of these people feel they came harrowingly close to losing their jobs, something which throws up a whole set of psychological ramifications. They could be experiencing survivor’s guilt or fear of what the future holds.
Communicating with the remaining team needs to be handled well or you might be left with the walking wounded. At the very least, they need a helping hand to rebuild morale and team spirit. Just pretending that everything’s normal is only going to push the company into a further funk.
If possible, prior to any redundancies, keep the team informed about the progress of the process; consider any suggestions about avoiding job losses and ensure the selection criteria is fair and objective. Do everything you can to provide redundant staff with help to find another job.
We have compiled some suggestions from leading human resources managers on how to look after the redundancy survivors:
- Communicate — as soon as someone has been laid off, tell the rest of the team. If there are no plans for further redundancies — tell them now!
- Share some of the nitty-gritty about the company’s financial situation. Acknowledge your company’s problems publicly and let the remaining people know how they fit into the company’s future
- Be transparent and honest with your employees, so they are aware of the full situation and not speculating about their future. This will minimise office gossip and staff will feel more valued and motivated
- After making future priorities, objectives and targets clear, involve the team in finding creative ways for everyone to contribute to this.
Consider the practical issues remaining employees will have to deal with once a colleague has gone. How do you redistribute their workload? What approach will you take when introducing clients to their new contacts at your business?
- Make a specific plan for the immediate few weeks, ensuring you do not overload any one person or team. Re-evaluate after the smoke has cleared, when you can be more thoughtful about who takes over what duties
- Ensure there is adequate training for employees with new responsibilities or higher workloads
- Good news regarding client wins or budget increases should be communicated as soon as possible and their implications explained. Likewise, bad news needs to be shared promptly in order to reassure employees of the ramifications and how it will affect them.
Like any situation involving emotionally charged people, it is going to be imperfect, it’s going to be painful and it’s going to have a damaging effect on employee morale in the short term. Prepare for this, expect this and pay attention to the details.
Most importantly, the employees left behind are looking for leadership, so it is critical that you be clear about the way forward. You may not have all the answers, but leaders must create an environment where people feel needed and know they are contributing to the success of the organisation during these challenging times.