In this article, Forbes examines the effect that downsizing can have on team morale and the challenges that face executives as they lead a downsized team. The article interviews several management consultants as well as Sharon Birkman Fink, CEO of Birkman.
Sharon shares her insights into why managers should be sensitive to the needs of their team during the stressful times of layoffs, including team members that are kept on. During times of uncertainty, the roller coaster of losing your colleagues, hearing rumors, and then being kept on staff can take its toll on even the most dedicated employees.
Managing a team of dozens or workforce of hundreds after layoffs is one of the most difficult challenges an employer may face. Those left behind carry a lot of emotional baggage, including fear, anxiety, uncertainty, grief, guilt and mistrust. The most common worker response is disengagement. Productivity levels drop–just when the boss needs more for (and with) less.
“Over time, working in an office during layoffs is like having a vitamin deficiency–the anxiety piles up,” says Sharon Birkman Fink, chief executive of Houston corporate consultancy firm Birkman International. “To deal with that stress, employees need to know the company cares and is listening to them.”
Layoffs are often so traumatic that most managers are out of their element and psychologically ill-equipped to deal with the fallout, says workplace psychologist Ken Siegel, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., president of the Impact Group, a management consulting firm in Beverly Hills. He believes “moron management” after layoffs severely damages an already broken culture and does nothing for the bottom line.
A steady, caring executive suite may be the most critical element to getting a business back on track, and experts detail how best to handle potentially crippling backlash from survivor employees.