2016 saw a massive number of layoffs by Belgian companies in various sectors. Whatever the organization, layoffs shake the foundations and take everyone out of their comfort zone. If you lead a team, it’s your job not only to manage the people who are made redundant, but also to keep your team of “survivors” productive and morale high. And that’s not an easy task, as there are many pitfalls along the way.
#1 People suspect you know more
As you leave the initial consultation meeting with the Works Council, you feel that they understand the rationale behind your story. Walking down to the shop floor, you overhear some of your staff discussing a possible relocation of their activities and a potential redundancy plan. Running back to the HR office to check what happened, you notice that colleagues are looking at you as if you knew about those layoff rumors but didn’t tell them! How did this first consultation day turn into a nightmare? What did you miss?
#2 Three of the people laid off didn’t show up today
Although redundancies are hard to take, you assumed your staff would continue to work “normally” until the end of the transition period. While you’re questioning your judgement of professionalism, HR calls to tell you that the lawyer representing one of the people laid off passed by this morning to negotiate the early departure of his/her client. Can business continue as usual with fewer people before the transition becomes a fact?
#3 Your most experienced employee is leaving today
Friday 5pm, end of the month: you’re invited to the farewell drink organized by one of your most experienced people. You’re facing the emotional prospect of a last discussion with a great employee. At the entrance, you come across a colleague who is just leaving and hear him say: “Such an experienced guy, we’ll miss him!” You stop and ask yourself: did we do anything to keep his knowledge on board? Did we “capture” his experience?!
#4 The “survivors” turn against you
Once you’ve made it through the tough period managing the layoffs, you feel it’s time to restore team spirit. You suggest going for a drink after work. But your team members don’t react as positively as you had expected. One of them dares to say what most of them are thinking: “I don’t feel like having a drink with you: you keep your job anyway while too many of our colleagues have lost theirs!” No comment.
Managing these situations as they crop up is not an option. To avoid them, you need to introduce a number of preventive and curative measures – hard and soft – right before the layoff process starts. At bluecrux, this is part of INFUSION, a methodology that supports your entire organization through this profound period of transition.