Dealing with downsizing

Downsizing. Rightsizing. Restructuring.
Whatever you may call it, organizational layoffs are difficult on everyone.

Planned and executed properly, downsizing can positively impact the future of an
organization. But, leaders must take steps
to ease the burden of the process for both
the downsized staff and those who remain,
or risk severing critical working relationships and morale. When management fails
to build an environment where remaining
workers can stay engaged and productive,
in the end, downsizing can produce a number of undesired results.

“When a company has to make layoffs, it
can’t overlook remaining employees,” says
Alfredia Mulkey, professional recruiter,
Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. “Job security and extra work are just a few of the
concerns that surround a staff that’s been
forced to shrink.”

Smart Business learned more from
Mulkey about the best strategies to get
through the difficult time during and after
the downsizing process.

What missteps can leaders avoid making
when executing on a downsizing plan?

Leaders play a crucial role in maintaining
the stabilization of an organization during a
downsizing of the work force. An organization is most unstable during a downsize
transition. Effective leaders will focus on
the new vision and direction while
acknowledging and validating employee
emotions. A key to leadership during this
time is knowing when to focus on the hardships and when to focus on building and
moving into the future.

How should a company best communicate
layoffs to the staff?

Clear, consistent and compassionate
communication is the key. Give employees
an open and honest assessment through
verbal and written communication about
why the downsizing was necessary. Your
candor and attention to detail at all
moments will convey to your staff that the
decision was not arbitrary or illegal.
Outline the steps being taken to ensure the
solvency of the corporation and financial
stability. Informing the employees remaining in an honest and empathetic manner
will give them more confidence in the
longevity of their jobs and will create the
buy-in needed at this crucial time. Explain
the business plan and keep open lines of
communication with your current employees on a weekly or even daily basis regarding the status of the company.

How can a company curb resentment among
those remaining?

Downsize with dignity by outlining and
communicating a consistent strategy for
the layoffs. When layoffs are used repeatedly without strategy, downsizing can
destroy an organization’s effectiveness. Do
not let emotions play a role in the decision-making process as this will cause resentment among those remaining. Include in
your strategy a plan for assisting the displaced workers. Despite the financial woes
your organization may have, invest in helping the downsized employee move on. This
is ethical and reasonable, but most importantly, the remaining staff will be watching
for demonstrations of empathy.

Even cash-strapped organizations can
still extend assistance. Provide transition
assistance by partnering with your local
work force development organization that
can offer services related to retraining, job
leads and other information about current
trends in the marketplace. Compile an
information package pertinent to their layoff that includes information on the expiration of benefits, COBRA coverage and
unemployment compensation information.
Severance packages, even short-term, can
also be extended as a demonstration of
appreciation for the worker’s service to the

What should be communicated to managers?

Downsizing is a very personal and emotional experience for people affected by
the events, including managers. They are,
in many cases, the bearers of bad news and
have to manage the after effects of the
news on their unit. They have to redistribute work, instill morale and assure productivity. They must also demonstrate a high
level of compassion or risk severing long-term working relationships with team
members. Managers must balance an adequate dose of compassion, combined with
optimism and direction, as essential ingredients to surviving the process.

How should managers best deal with productivity, delegation and morale issues?

It’s the managers’ challenge to re-engage
the remaining work force after downsizing.
Often the first casualty in a downsizing is
employee morale. Motivation at this time is
essential, especially when the remaining
employees will often have the burden of a
shift in workload or responsibilities.
During the rebuilding phase, it is critical for
managers to develop a fair system to redistribute work. Involve employees during
this time. Identify new leaders within the
team or corporation who can be mentored,
which can be evidence for potential in the

ALFREDIA MULKEY is a professional recruiter with the Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. Reach her at (813) 930-7570 or
[email protected].