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Motivating employees during layoffs

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Jessica Miller-Merrell, blogging4jobs

Going through mass layoffs is extremely difficult for any organization. While it’s certainly a hardship for those who lose their jobs, the employees who are left to fill the gaps also face unique struggles. They are likely experiencing a range of emotions, from fear to gratefulness, to frustration and confusion. These employees who made it through the layoffs are not only feeling uncertain about their jobs but also feeling the stress of picking up the slack when there has been a major cut in staffing. The difficulty in helping your employees manage all these feelings is that there is an incredible need for employees to be motivated as well during this time so that both the quality and quantity of worked performed isn’t affected. 

It goes without saying that motivating employees at a time like this is no easy task. Many organizations have made the wrong moves during this time and hurt the business even further, but that doesn’t have to be the case. When done correctly, a time like this can pull employees closer as they band together to take on the challenge. Here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re tasked with motivating employees after a major layoff: 

Don’t lose the team mentality

After a mass layoff employees often feel as if it is every man for himself, but it’s your job to help them remember that they are still a team. When employees no longer see themselves as part of a bigger unit, they stop pulling in the same direction. When this happens, productivity and engagement are significantly affected. Reinforce that those who are still there are there for a reason and that you are working towards specific goals. Even if you had a great work environment before, don’t assume that it will continue without increased support and reinforcement.

Be careful not to cause worry

One of the main concerns on your employees’ minds is probably who will be next to go. In all reality, they may be afraid they could lose their job too, and that is a loaded fear as it could affect every aspect of their lives. The majority of organizations aren’t going to scare employees into performing but it is possible to place too much pressure on them during this critical time. As I said above, it’s important to set goals that teams can work towards, but there must be a balance between the fact that you absolutely need employees to perform and have an obligation to calm employees’ fears. 

Be transparent

It’s vitally important during any significant change to be transparent and forthcoming as much as possible. It can be tempting to hide behind half truths, or hide period, but in the end it almost always makes the most sense to be honest with employees about why changes are taking place. There’s nothing worse than the rumor mill perpetuating assumptions and rumors or hearing bad news about your company outside of work. Have candid conversations with your employees, sharing why it’s important that everyone gives their bets during this time, and don’t forget to share goals for the future so employees know what they’re working towards.

Have you been part of an organization that has gone through mass layoffs? If so, what did you find to be the most challenging aspect of keeping employees motivated? Let us know in the comments section below.

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