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Cutting staff? Here’s how to take care of the survivors

Cutting staff? Here’s how to take care of the survivors

Nobody likes to dish out redundancies, but during COVID-19, many of us have had to. You’ve successfully handled that last weepy Zoom call – now you need to focus on the survivors, the employees who are left. If you don’t manage the impact on them, their morale will plummet, taking productivity with it, right when you need them most.

With furlough ending, many leaders are preparing to downsize. While there’s a lot of research out there on how to support the victims, there’s little on the impact on survivors. Management often ignore their needs, assuming they’ll just be happy they still have a job. This is a myth; survivors suffer. And that matters, because they’re the only workforce you have left.

The complex reactions of survivors

Literature suggests that survivors can experience a mix of reactions which includes: anger, depression, guilt, distrust, vulnerability, powerlessness, loss of morale and motivation, and some have coined the term ‘survivor sickness’.

Your choices will affect the severity of this sickness. Your vision, your policies, the way you communicate and the way you treat victims will all shape survivors’ reactions. If ‘compulsory’ redundancies are dished out with little explanation, don’t be surprised if productivity drops.

The power of psychological contracts

There’s a psychological contract between you and your employees. You have unspoken expectations of each other. You expect their loyalty and their best efforts; they expect to still have a job tomorrow. That means redundancies feel like a breach of trust. Would you give your best efforts to someone you could no longer trust?

If you don’t consciously redesign this unspoken contract to reflect the new reality and culture of your workplace, it’s just going to become a degraded version of the original contract, and employees’ commitment and loyalty will suffer.

They’ve lost friends

The closer survivors are to their colleagues, the more redundancies will affect them. Many employees build close, family-like relationships at work; redundancies will feel like an attack on this family structure.

Disrupting social ties makes work harder for survivors both practically and emotionally. They may find themselves handling increased responsibility, workflow changes, and role confusion.

Four quick tips to manage the impact on survivors:

  1. Explain why redundancies are happening if you want to be seen as fair.
  2. Explain your vision for the future so people can trust you to turn the company around.
  3. Redesign roles and responsibilities to make things easy on survivors while they adjust.
  4. Make survivors feel empowered and competent by providing training for new roles.
Posted by: Morgan Spencer 0 comment(s)

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