How to Motivate Staff After a Downsizing

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Layoffs can demoralize those who remain as well as those who loose their jobs.
Layoffs can demoralize those who remain as well as those who loose their jobs. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Rightsizing. Restructuring. Headcount reduction. Layoffs are layoffs no matter what you call them. While layoffs are terrible for those whose jobs disappear, they can be surprisingly painful to those left behind after the event. A smart manager who knows how to handle negative emotions like dread, guilt, fear and anger, can return the workplace to a positive, productive workplace. There are at least at least seven distinct components to motivating remaining staff in the aftermath of layoffs.

Things You'll Need

  • Staff roster
  • New Organizational chart
  • Revised/adjusted department goals
  • private office or meeting area

Motivating Those Who Remain is a Matter of Restoring Confidence and Trust.

Exhibit Empathy. Be mindful that layoffs are among the most traumatic experiences workers can experience, no matter if they are the one who loses a job or not. Acknowledge their feelings, which may range from anger, loss, denial, and grief, to guilt and relief. Let them see that what has happened affects you as well. Empathy can help you help them move on.

Model positive behavior. As a company leader, it is your responsibility to set the right tone. Be kind, gracious and as honest as you can be with what you know. Say nothing that denigrates the employees who are no longer there. Resist putting down anyone who may not be able to handle loss and change as well as others.

Meet in small groups. After layoffs have occurred, it is important to be visible and available. Set aside a safe place for them to talk with you and let them know that you will listen. Small groups are best to allow quiet folks to express themselves. This will begin to restore trust; both in their workplace environment and in you specifically, as someone who is willing to hear what they have to say.

Focus on positive action. Get out your organization chart and show the remaining employees where they fit and how their responsibilities may have changed. Set business goals on which they can focus. If you don't know how things will work yet, ask for their input. Involving them in solving the problem will get them working more quickly in a new organizational structure and might reveal here-to-for hidden leadership traits.

Adjust your style depending upon an employee's ability to handle change. Be mindful that different people handle change differently. Depending upon your personality type and outlook on life, you may handle change well; rolling with surprises and welcoming challenges. Or you may retreat in fear and panic when someone moves the water cooler. The wise manager understands this personality difference and may adjust her style to help the employee adjust.

Demonstrate the value of remaining employees. Invest energy in the staff that remains. Recognize their efforts and celebrate achievements, even small ones and even though you might not have done so before the layoffs. Employees might know you've changed your style, but will appreciate the effort you make to acknowledge them.

Set career goals and build their self-esteem. When layoffs happen, don't just focus on how to meet your department goals. Recognize that your staff will wonder how the added responsibility, or perhaps removal of a reporting layer, may affect their careers. Be ready with some answers, and be willing to help them adjust their; objectives. Consider allowing them to add classes or seminars that can help build their job skills – and their self-esteem.

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