How to Rebuild Team Trust After Layoffs

May 22, 2020 | Leadership, Team Development

In planning for a major restructuring or series of layoffs, it’s essential to think about your remaining team. In this blog post, we share our best tips for rebuilding team trust – and strengthening your team – after layoffs.

There is no way around it: layoffs are hard. They are tough for the leaders making the decisions, for those who lose their jobs, and for those who are left behind. Layoffs are also, unfortunately, part of corporate life; organizations pivot, grow, and survive tough times through restructuring.

In planning for a significant restructuring or series of layoffs, it’s essential to think about your remaining team. What will you do to rebuild trust with those who aren’t laid off, so that they can feel secure and continue to do their best work? Read on for our best tips for rebuilding team trust – and strengthening your team – after layoffs.

Make space for feelings

Having lived through some pretty massive layoffs, I can safely say: it is scary coming to work and seeing rows upon rows of empty desks. It’s awful to think of your former colleagues, whose families depended on their income, pounding the pavement when you’re still getting paid. Survivor’s guilt, anxiety about job certainty and what’s next, even anger are all normal emotions for remaining team members to experience. As a leader or people manager, make room for people’s feelings – don’t act like everything is business as usual. Provide opportunities for team members to share how they’re feeling, either one-on-one or as a team, and listen without judgment.

Do something for those who lost their jobs

There is a reason that it’s become pretty popular lately to post on LinkedIn after a series of layoffs. Letting your network know about the amazing talent that’s just re-entered the market and offering to connect laid-off employees with potential opportunities serves as fantastic optics for your remaining employees. The message is: we care about our people and don’t want to leave them high and dry. Helping those who were laid off get back on their feet, and doing so in a public manner, can go a long way in rebuilding trust with your remaining team.

Be as transparent as possible

For a while after the layoffs, your remaining team members may be on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for their jobs to be cut as well. To quell this anxiety – and ensure it doesn’t preclude productivity – be as transparent as you can about any further restructuring. If layoffs are done, say so. Until you re-create a feeling of safety and certainty for your people, your team will likely underperform.

Look towards the future

While layoffs are truly awful, they often mean that a new strategic focus or direction is coming for the organization: after a period of mourning, it is a good idea to direct your team’s attention forward. Generate excitement about the great work that they are going to do and allow team members to understand what their roles will look like as the organization continues to grow and evolve. Demonstrate that the layoffs were purposeful and show enthusiasm about what the future holds.

By: Elissa Gurman

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