Lay-Offs – Moving Forward With Purpose


We have all either experienced it and/or read about it – the after effects of a lay-off. Staff leaving offices with their termination packages, stunned as they walk to their desk to pack up their belongings and looking embarrassed as they say a quick good-bye to those they meet in the hall. Those that remain stand with bent heads – not sure what to say. The survivors are relieved to still have their jobs; however, they feel sad as they realize many of their friends and peers are gone. Soon they feel mad and nervous as they realize that, although there are less people, the work has not diminished. As the Manager you are feeling all of these things but there is one major difference – you are the Leader and you have to help the remaining employees find the path forward. You take a moment, put your emotions in check and call your group together for the first meeting after the lay-offs. What will you say and how will you act…

  • Act quickly to bring your team together – ideally the same day that the lay-offs were announced or first thing the next morning.
  • Acknowledge how you are feeling – be candid – you’re sad, disappointed but also determined to move forward with purpose.
  • Tell your staff as much as you can and be honest – if there is going to be another round of lay-offs don’t guarantee anyone that their job is safe.
  • If career transition support was offered to those that left let the survivors know this, they will feel better knowing that assistance has been provided. Encourage your staff to connect with those that have left to offer support and to say good-bye.
  • Acknowledge that everyone will need time to adjust – there is actually a grieving process that we all go through when we witness a lay-off. Educate yourself on this and tell people that it’s okay to feel the emotions that they are feeling. Encourage them to talk about their feelings.
  • Commit to your employees that you will meet with each one of them individually to discuss how the lay-off will impact their duties and work load; engage them and ask them to think about how work can be re-distributed.
  • Make sure you keep your door open for the couple of weeks after a lay-off and connect often with your people. Ask them how they are doing and listen to their responses. If they are struggling, connect them with someone that can help – maybe your Employee Assistance Program or another peer who might be able to take them for coffee and mentor them.
  • Ensure you look after your own emotional health. Understand the cycle of emotions that are typical when major change happens. Give yourself permission to feel sad, mad, overwhelmed and anxious but remember, to the extent that you can, to remain real and optimistic. Make sure you talk about how you are feeling and your thoughts about moving forward with another peer or someone you trust outside the organization. As soon as possible map out the new landscape for your people and walk purposely as you move about the days following the lay-offs. You are the leader and people want to know that you are confident on the path forward.

Call Salopek & Associates at 403-681-1232 or email to obtain information on outplacement and career transition support, training or other HR programs that support your people.

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