Nikhil Kuruganti: How to Manage layoffs

How to Manage layoffs

Two times in my life i had seen economic downturns and was pressurized to take some decisions that were many times against my heart. Call it by any name Downsizing, Rightsizing, Furloughs, Terminations or Layoffs but you will have to do the final 'Dirty Work' ensuring that the careers of terminated workforce is not affected by our decision. From here starts the tricky part. "How to keep rest of the employees motivated?"

As many of the studies prove, initially the remaining work force's motivational levels shoot up. Increasing the job responsibility of an employee would increase the motivational levels. This is due to the recognition and strong sense of responsibility.

But as the time progresses this alone would not help to keep the motivational levels high. First, some employees may begin to feel overloaded and overwhelmed. This can cause unnecessary tension and pressure. In these circumstances, many people begin to make mistakes, become irritable and often are less productive.

Even worse, they may gripe to other employees, criticize management and put forth less effort. Over the long haul, negative outcomes occur, such as decreased morale, motivation and productivity. This is the exact opposite effect you probably intended and wanted.

There is a spectrum of reasons expressed by the employees ranging from possible grief over the loss of colleagues--friends, peers and even managers to the nightmare of receiving the next pink slip. Some might actualy work due to this fear but as we can expect it would decrease the employee loyality.

It is a traditional approach that the manager in such conditions hide things behind desk and maintain as if nothing happened. But i suggest that you:

  • Meet with small groups of employees. Fully explain the current situation, the short-term outlook and the need for the action that you took.
  • Demonstrate sincere empathy. Be genuine and understanding toward the people who were let go and for the added responsibilities for those who remain. Ask individuals how they feel about the events that occurred. The key here is to allow them to vent their thoughts and emotions. This is the appropriate forum in which to do it, not behind your back, spreading rumors and ill will.
  • Recognize the powerful impact of your actions. Explain that you understand the additional responsibilities some employees will have to assume and the added stress some will have to endure. Describe how you will attempt to help them prioritize and deal with the changes, looking forward to success and accomplishment. Make every attempt where possible to eliminate unnecessary duties among the responsibilities other employees have had to assume.
  • Focus on positive action. Discuss how the difficult short-term steps will positively affect the future. With the changes you have made, you look forward to brighter, more secure prospects. When business improves, hopefully you will be able to rehire some of the terminated employees. Again, encourage them to share their feelings and try to empathize with them.
  • Let them know that leadership is on board. Explain that you and other management-level people will be available to discuss job questions, uncertainties and performance, gearing your comments to how to overcome obstacles in the way of success.
  • Be gracious. Sincerely thank everyone for trying to understand the difficult steps you have taken and for their attention, concern and willingness to put forth additional effort to get through these difficult times.
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