A Manager's Guide to Surviving Layoffs - Page 2

Mar 25, 2009

Allen Bernard

Matuson even suggests reaching out to those that have been laid off to see how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help. While this probably is unrealistic for managers when they've let go 30%, 40% or 50% of the staff, if you hear about a job, for example, and you know that Bob would be perfect for it, call him and tell him. Chances are he will be grateful for the referral.

Lead by Example

Now is also the time that you have to step and lead. Managing when things are good is easy. Managing when things are bad takes skill. Perhaps the most important trait that your staff will look for and respect is integrity, said Matuson. Be as honest and forthright as you can and you will always be able to sleep at night knowing you're doing the best you can. "The last thing you want to do is say everything is going to be fine and your employee shows up in a brand new BMW."

This also means you have to keep the employees that are left behind motivated. While it's sad that your colleagues are gone, the company still has to function if people still want to have jobs tomorrow. It's up to you to keep people focused on this new reality. The first thing is, don't assume that you are going to be able to go back to business as usual with half the staff. You are going to have embark on some kind of business reorganization and reduction plan. You can't just expect people to work 12-hour days all of a sudden and be happy they still have a job.

"And that's a mistake that can be common as people say, 'Well, you know what? We're going to have to work twice as hard because half the people left, but we still need to get the same jobs done.' That is unrealistic" said Duperval. "Cutting away 35% of the people will cut away a lot of the services you provide."

Don't let FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) rule the day. Now is a good time to focus on moving forward. You will have to figure out what services you are going to be able to offer and what services are going to have to give way or be cut back. This exercise will not only help the company as a whole weather the storm, it will help everyone by giving them something concrete to focus on. And it will help you for the same reasons.

You can also get the remaining folks together for some bonding, said Duperval. Offer to pay for a night of bowling, pizza and beer; or maybe some other retreat type event where people can come together, vent and begin to move on. The point is to get people focused on positive outcomes again, said RHT's Willmer.

A Good Night's Sleep

Then there is the personal help that you many need. Aside from doing what you can for your employees and the company, when you go home at night you may still feel bad. Get some help if these feelings don't pass. Get counseling, talk to your priest or minister or Rabbi, talk to your boss about it. Layoffs are hard on everyone and it may be some time before the benefits of letting people go become apparent, if ever. There may also be future rounds of layoffs so you will have to steel yourself for these, as well.

"The guilt part is the toughest part to deal with," said Duperval. "You are left with it alone and you're the one that has work yourself out of it."

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