How to Lead When Working Through Layoffs

As an IT manager, one of your many jobs is to keep your team productive and its morale high through a layoff process. That, of course, is no easy task, so we asked tech leaders and career experts what you can do to ease fears and keep the remaining workforce productive.

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Maintain Focus on the Job at Hand

Keeping the talent you have can be difficult if employees are feeling unsure, underscoring the need for transparency. Once you've communicated all the data and answered all the questions you can, it's time to get everyone on the same page. According to Chad Sheridan, CIO, Risk Management Agency, USDA, at this point managers need to keep the focus on the mission. "In the federal government space, people stay because they believe in the mission. Adversity and trials will always occur, but we can suffer through our trials if we believe that what we do matters, "he says.

Turnover Happens

Some of your remaining workers will understandably be wary and start looking for a job. However, if you are a good manager and treat your people as they wish to be treated, people will be far less inclined to leave. "Brain drain is a challenge during layoffs, because it's your most talented people that can leave you tomorrow and go to your competitor, leaving you sweeping up the remains of a shattered team," says Rucker.

Managers need to do their best to create great relationships with people before layoffs ever happen. "When you can make their experience at work more than just a money or role discussion, and grow them to the point where they feel that they are their best version of themselves when they work for you, they'll fight to stay with you, and only leave when it's absolutely necessary," says Rucker.

One last tip that Rucker offers managers and workers who are working through this issue is what she refers to as PACE. This method can apply to many situations.

Pause - To figure out what happened and why

Be Authentic - "Understanding how employees feel and sharing with them in an authentic way goes a long way to spread goodwill even if you can't always share good news," she says.

Communicate - Be transparent and share as much as you can. "I can remember times when I could only have this conversation with my directs, but pulling them into my office and sharing with them was the difference between losing my top players, and finding myself left with a shell of my team," says Rucker.

Engage - When layoffs happen your workers will be consumed with it initially, the workplace will be abuzz with discussion. Make yourself available; although you may not be able to do anything about it, sometimes listening is enough. "Being a leader that will allow them to talk about their fears without rigidly redirecting them to focus on their work, goes a long way towards building your brand. That's important, because there's life after the layoff, and you want to be successful in it," says Rucker.

Final Thoughts

There will always be slighted feelings when dealing with a reduction in the workforce. That said, you've got to do your best to get out ahead of the problem, to focus on the people who are still there and your organization's mission.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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