Dr. Randall P. White podcast[audio:Podcast]
Once a company makes a logic-driven decision to downsize, many managers find themselves facing the grief-stricken emotions of the ones who were left behind. The employee “survivor syndrome,” as explained by David Noer in his book, Healing the Wounds, is just what it sounds like: Survivor’s Guilt. Survivors of a downsizing often feel:
Ill at ease
Questioning “Why not me,” “Why wasn’t I laid off?”
The trouble is that some managers prefer that folks simply “soldier up” and go on, business as usual. Some managers want to have a pep rally and cheer everyone up. Some managers want to ignore the whole thing and hope that it will go away. Neither is the best way to operate. Feelings need to be dealt with directly.
Be direct. Get the team together and talk with them. Don’t talk at them, ask them, “How do you feel about this?” “How are you functioning?”
Ask and listen to what they have to say. Use active listening techniques: Paraphrase what you hear, ask questions for understanding, and empathize. That doesn’t mean you have to agree. Let people know you’re listening.
Do what you can. If there are things you can do, some changes you can make, do them. Go forward and let people know that you’re actively involved in searching with them for solutions.
When you’re done listening
Share your vision for how the team might adjust and get better.
Ask for input. You want and need support for plans going forward. You also want their input and coaching for how you could continue forward. What do they need from you, and how you could better provide what they need.
Lastly, keep tabs on the morale. Check in with people individually and as a group. You may be asking for suggestions, for what people are learning, and for how they might approach the short staff issues in better or more efficient ways.
This won’t fix everyone’s feelings. But it will communicate that you care, that you’re interested in helping people be the very best they can be and to perform at the highest level possible.