Layoffs may seem like a bitter experience beyond your control. You have to remove people from your team (permanently or temporarily) and face their disappointment and fear of unemployment.
At the same time, you have to reassure the existing employees and motivate them to work equally hard. This is where your understanding of good leadership style and organizational impact will come into play.
“During our previous layoff, some of my employees faced survivor’s guilt. They felt bad that to retain them, we had to fire some other people. It was hard to make them realize their worth and the true reason their coworkers were fired. It led to a few grueling months of a demotivated work culture,” said a team leader from Chennai.
How do you cope?
Layoffs can be viewed as an opportunity to take your team to the next level. You can build your team spirit and motivate your employees to achieve new heights. This is primarily achieved by assuring them of no additional burden carried over from their departed workers.
Here are some ways the team leader motivated his team to get back on track. The business had faced a massive layoff a few years back owing to a lack of customer satisfaction. They began to fire various employees who had been performing poorly for a prolonged duration. The entrepreneurial mindset of the leader and his team helped them get out of the circumstance.
How did they get out of the predicament?
- Focusing on the positives
While the situation might seem despondent, the team began to highlight the positives they could find. They had job security and were valued by the business as long as they worked well. By being empathetic, the team leader showed them how valued they were in the business.
They could continue to develop unique ideas and enhance their growth. They could cherish new opportunities and thrive in the new environment without the people hindering progress. Everyone left on the team was qualified to be the best and could help each other be the best versions of themselves.
- Acknowledging reality
It is important to acknowledge reality as the whole group would be in a state of mental turmoil. The team leader overcame this situation with a simple strategy – of being honest and transparent. He was raw and open about things to give people a full picture of what was going on. He didn’t sugarcoat things and extended his full support to those in need or those who wished to open up.
This helped people realize that the situation wasn’t as bad as they presumed. “A few people had begun to spread rumors that the company was about to shut down. I am not sure who started the talks about our so-called financial crisis. But speaking about it openly helped clear the air and the employees stopped worrying about their salaries getting reduced,” he said with a smile.
- Being transparent about where people stand
This also involved telling people where they stood. Most people were concerned about their job security and kept thinking they would be fired next. The team leader overcame this by telling them exactly why they had been retained. This enabled them to work on their strengths and keep delivering good work consistently.
It was also a good way to encourage people to share their concerns. People could open up about what was on their minds — either with each other or directly with the team leader in person. This showed people that everyone was equally under pressure and they could help motivate each other with an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Building on success and achievements
The team leader encouraged his team by acknowledging their efforts, no matter how small they were. Any progress is still progress, so he made them believe it. He praised them openly and encouraged others to do the same. Team efforts were appreciated and yet, every single person felt the joy of success individually.
Any toxic culture of pointing out mistakes or belittling each other was called out. “We set reasonable timelines for the projects and had tangible rewards once they were completed. And we were very particular about the rewards being team ones and not for individuals. We would go out for movies or a team dinner even if the most basic deadlines were met. It is the best way to motivate your team to get inspired by seeing each other’s success,” said the team leader.
- Rebalancing the workload
This is a crucial step that was prioritized and deliberated upon. This was because most of the employees felt overworked and stressed — not to mention the additional work that would get dumped on them. To solve this issue, the workload was rebalanced from scratch and most clients were swapped as per people’s business acumen skills.
An open culture to delegate work and ask for help was initiated. There was no such thing as “my client” or “your client”. The entire workspace moved to a mindset that promoted “our clients”. This helped people go out of their way to help each other and balance any unexpected situations.
Any tasks that had low priority or possible postponement were eliminated from the equation. The team leader even went to the extent of terminating contracts with a few clients that hadn’t been bringing success to the team in a while. It helped people focus on important tasks and forget extra ones.
- Creating something new and out of the box
Now that the team was beginning to realize their worth and get out of their shells, they began to accept new projects. This gave them a change of scenery and the chance to expose themselves to new opportunities. People found new ways to prove themselves and showcase new ideas for the projects.
It helped people forget the fear of failure and move towards promising projects. “We asked people to volunteer and take up the roles by themselves. They could delegate the tasks and quote any idea even if the budget was out of our reach. It gave people the feeling of being in control of things and making decisions for the team,” he said.
Layoffs are common in businesses, but that doesn’t mean the repercussions aren’t severe every time. When things seem to be going south, it is necessary to give people something new to look forward to. Show them how valued they are and what you expect from them to prevent them from getting fired.
Praise people openly and put in the effort to support your team. Not everyone will be relieved they survived the layoff. Several of them might feel insecure or anxious as jobs become insecure and it is critical to be empathetic about this. They need to be reassured that they aren’t next in line and told what they need to do to save their spot.
Encourage open communication to ensure rumour mills don’t churn to lead to speculations and false presumptions among employees. The failure to address such solutions might erode the motivation of your existing team and their business acumen skills.
You aren’t at a loss if, like many leaders, you are unable to find a solution during recession. A good leadership style and organizational impact involves knowing when to seek assistance and guidance from experts. It’s important to remember that during recession it’s necessary to honour valuable talent. If a leader can survive volatile times with his employees this will lead to trust being established in the longer run.