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Overcoming the aftermath of a mass layoff as an organization

When mass layoffs happen, it’s easy to think that the only ones affected are the employees, as they are the ones who have lost their main source of income. While that is true to an extent, this does not mean that organizations are not affected at all. As the company, management and employer, the organization is held accountable for the layoffs. Making the tough call to lay off one or two employees is not a decision to be taken lightly, let alone mass layoffs. In summary, organizations will have their fair share of problems to tank following the episode, and if left unaddressed, these problems will easily result in the demise of the business. As the business learns to bounce back from the ordeal and return stronger, here are several things that you, as the management can do to keep the spirits up in the meantime.

Maintain transparency

In the period following a mass layoff, your remaining employees will be the ones to keep the business going. During this period, people are bound to discuss and speculate the reason behind the layoffs. Rumors will circulate and people will attempt to make sense of the situation. As the management, it is your first priority to address the situation immediately. Find the time to address the issue to your employees at large. Refrain from sugar coating that will only muddle the truth further. Instead, strive to be transparent and authentic with your words. Be honest about the company’s future and how the business will move forward following the ordeal, even if things look bleak. Honest truth will keep people around, not covered-up stories. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent people from leaving, however you can continue forging on and keeping peoples’ spirits high. Those taken to the cause will remain to offer their support, and hopefully, this will enable the business to recover.

Be mindful of survivor’s guilt

It is usual for the remaining employees to develop survivor’s guilt after the initial wave of layoff. People may start to feel as if they do not belong with the company and it should have been them to have gotten the bat. This is entirely normal as the business has just gone through a challenging moment and everyone is dealing with the aftershock. Some people tend to be more empathetic than others and thus, feel the ripple effects to a greater extent. Both the management and leaders should check in on these employees from time-to-time and offer support to them in various ways possible. Open communication, employee counseling, even a simple acknowledgement will help uplift morale. Survivor’s guilt is not something to be taken lightly as it can lead to a second exodus of employees, usually by the employees’ accord. In turn, the consequence will snowball and spiral into another episode of exodus, as the remaining employees will be taxed with greater workload and stress.

Never burn bridges with your ex-employees

Aside from being transparent about the company's and employee’s future, the other thing that companies should take note of is to never close their doors on ex-employees. Although it is very unlikely that employees will return to work for you after an unwanted layoff, you as the management owe it to them to let them go nicely. Burning bridges does not help anyone, and you will never know if these talents will eventually cycle around and come back into the picture. Whether it’s layoff or a voluntary exit, try to maintain an amicable relationship with your ex-employees. This will ensure that no one leaves the company with hard feelings, which softens the blow to both parties and prevents unwanted lawsuits or PR backlash from taking place. One day, if the business recovers and hiring expands, you may find yourself wanting to reach out to past talents to come back, particularly to those who were instrumental in helping the business grow in the past but were forced to be let go due to unforeseen circumstances.

Give people time to adapt

In the first few months following the layoff, your remaining employees will likely struggle to keep up with work. Now that some employees have left and they are forced to undertake more responsibilities, those who remain may likely struggle with the change of pace in the coming months. As this happens, the leaders and the management should learn to practice compassion and patience. Understandably, work is work and the business requires money to thrive, but pushing your people to accomplish more in such a short time will only worsen the situation at hand. Proactively communicating with your employees on the expectations is vital to the adjustment. If you are able to offer some assistance in offloading the work, please do so. Remember, you and your employees are working as a team to overcome this bitter episode. There is no “I”, but “We” in the matter. Pressure will help some individuals grow, but it should never go to the point of becoming overwhelming.

Practice good handovers

Good handovers are one of the reasons you should never go burning bridges with your employees. If you are forced to let go of a performing or loyal employee, these people will be responsible for coaching and mentoring their next-in-lines before they leave. Ensuring good handovers will enable businesses to upkeep their work quality and guarantees that the successor will have an easier time managing new responsibilities. If someone was let go on a bad term, they may conduct a bad handover which will affect work quality and place the business in jeopardy.

Look into leadership problems

Sometimes layoffs are a result of bad leadership, which affects company performance and financial wellbeing. In fact, if the layoff is followed by an exodus of employees, this might be indicative of poor leadership in the organization. Poor leadership breeds unhealthy workplace culture and a toxic environment, which drives further people to leave prematurely. If you suspect that poor leadership is at play, it might be worthwhile exploring the issue and addressing it immediately.

The bottom line

Mass layoffs are never easy for anyone. It affects all parties involved and can lead to loss of morale. During these times, hope, compassion and willingness to prevail are even more important than ever. Perhaps with a little more faith and tenacity, all parties affected can emerge stronger and wiser from the ordeal. In the meantime, keep calm and forge on!

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