We’ve seen plenty of layoffs in the last few months and we feel for people who have lost their jobs, have very little with which to support their families and are perhaps in danger of losing their homes. Much less has been said about those who didn’t get laid off. There are things affecting them, too.
Fear and uncertainty. Will I be laid off, too? When? How is the company doing? Will the company be able to weather the recession?
Excessive work. If a number of people were let go, who’s going to do their work? Will I be asked to now do 3 jobs instead of the one I have been doing which had been taking all my time? How many more hours will I be expected to work? If I draw a line to protect my personal time, will I be seen as not being a team player, and possibly lose my job? Will I have the skills for these new tasks? Will I like doing these new things? Will there be new responsibilities without a pay increase? Is that fair to me? What happened to work/life balance?
Poor morale. How will our company culture be affected? Our morale is low due to all the changes. Will it ever get better? I don’t want to work where there are depressing frowns and complaining all day? How will my manager treat me? Will s/he be more stressed than usual which will make matters worse?
Anger. My friends and former co-workers were treated shabbily during the layoffs. Can I respect the person who is still my manager when s/he wasn’t respectful, honest, and caring with people who used to be my team members and were committed to the company?
How can an owner/manager make these situations better?
1. Respect and caring during the layoff process. It’s never an easy process but give people the respect and honesty they deserve as they are being asked to leave. Show the remaining employees that you are maintaining your values and acting ethically.
2. Communicate. Tell the employees what’s going on that will affect the sustainability of the company. Employees may not be happy but they will appreciate your honesty and that you’ve given them a chance to make some decisions based on accurate information and realistic expectations.
3. Talk about the direction of the company. Hear your employees’ opinions. They may have some good ideas about how to refocus the company or align responsibilities. Even if you don’t go with most of the ideas, it’s easier to get buy-in if people feel they’ve been listened to. It also builds a sense of team and working in the same direction with a common mission, a great antidote to poor morale.
4. Build morale with plenty of recognition, praise, gratitude, special lunches, birthday celebrations, little ways to create fun and appreciation.
5. Focus on building a high performance team. You’ve cut to the bare minimum. Now you have to give your reformulated team a reason to be motivated to become highly efficient and the core of your future company. Invest in training and development. Talk to each individual and find out what motivates each one. It often isn’t monetary compensation. Make sure each person is in a position where strengths are being maximizing and weaknesses are being avoided.