Layoffs: Take steps to ease the negative

Allison Tringale PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

While businesses are reopening and many employees are heading back to the workplace, this is not the case for much of the American population.

Due to COVID-19, many organizations had to make the tough decision to lay off or furlough employees and some might have to make these calls in future months.

Making the decision to downsize your workforce is never an easy choice. If you are considering downsizing your labor force make sure to think about alternatives such as pay cuts, hiring freezes and early retirement packages. While not a perfect solution, these options will have a less extreme effect on your employees.

Additionally, while layoffs seem like an immediate solution, the negative effects might spill into your long-term profitability, productivity and even your reputation as an employer.

However, sometimes layoffs cannot be avoided, which was the case for many organizations due to the pandemic. If layoffs cannot be avoided there are some steps that managers and organizational decision makers can take to potentially reduce some of the negative outcomes.

If your organization does decide to lay off employees make sure to first consult with your human resources department and ensure that you are complying with all local and federal laws.

Remember that your employees will be experiencing a variety of emotions: Anger, sadness, confusion. As a manager you need to be cognizant of these emotions and understand that each employee’s reaction will be different. Let employees voice their thoughts and be supportive. This support can go a long way.

Provide your employees with information surrounding the decision. As humans we try to avoid difficult conversations and often want to make them as brief as possible. However, being transparent about the decision and keeping the lines of communication open can help ease the transition for employees and help them understand why the decision is being made.

While employees might not like the decision, they will hopefully at least understand why it needs to be done. When we understand why decisions are being made, we are more likely to accept the outcomes even if we don’t necessarily like them.

A study by Jerald Greenberg, a Professor at The Ohio State University, found that when an organization had to cut employee pay, some people believed as though they were being treated unfairly, and employee theft increased.

However, those who had the pay cut respectfully explained to them did not feel that it was as unfair and were significantly less likely to engage in theft. Honesty and information transparency can go a long way with helping your employees feel respected and valued even during a difficult time.

Another way to help reduce the hardship a layoff causes for your employees is to provide them with the necessary resources for moving forward. Give them information on how to file for unemployment and COBRA insurance. Provide them with a reference if possible. Encourage them to reapply in the future. Put together a packet with interviewing and resume tips. Make sure that employees know that you care about them and want them to be successful in the future.

If you did have to lay off employees also be aware that employees who were not let go also might be experiencing a variety of feelings, known as “survivor’s sickness.”

Some employees could feel guilty for being employed. Others might be upset after seeing their co-workers and friends get let go. Furthermore, some might be worried that they will be next.

Make sure that you support your remaining employees and allow them to voice concerns that they might have.

For those who might have unfortunately been laid off, make sure to stop and assess your feelings. You are likely experiencing many of the emotions that I mentioned. It is OK to be angry, upset, worried and confused. Recognize that those feelings are normal.

Also see if your organization offers any of the resources I mentioned and look into some of the other programs that are available. Make sure to complete all of the necessary paperwork to receive these benefits.

Make sure to update your professional profile. Create a LinkedIn profile or update your LinkedIn profile to let organizations know that you are looking for a job. Update your resume.

While it might seem far fetched in the moment, take some time to evaluate what you want to do with your life. Were you wanting to make a career change? Could this be the opportunity that you’ve been putting off to go back to school? You never know, this unfortunate situation could be the start of your next chapter.