Work Life
November 15, 2023
March 1, 2024

How to Support Employees After Layoffs

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Times are tough. Companies all over the world are making the hard decisions that no leader wants to have to make. Unfortunately, many companies have been forced to do things like cut budgets, cancel projects, and even let employees go. Layoffs are an unfortunate reality when the economy struggles, and this step can have a lot of far-reaching repercussions.

Besides the missing employees themselves, surviving employees may struggle with job security anxiety, lack of trust, lower motivation, and decreased morale. While some of these feelings are natural and unavoidable, there are some strategies companies can implement to mitigate and minimize the negative impact of layoffs.

Let’s look at how to maintain, or even increase, trust, motivation, and morale after layoffs.

How to Build Trust After Layoffs

When employees see their coworkers getting let go, they may have trouble trusting the company as they once did—especially if the layoffs are sudden or unexpected. Here are some ways that you can rebuild and maintain that trust:

  • Honestly and openly communicate. Tell the truth about the decision. Why were layoffs necessary, why were certain positions safe and others weren’t, and how secure are the remaining jobs? Hold an all-hands meeting where leaders candidly discuss this information and answer questions. Schedule one-on-one meetings to give employees more specific information regarding their job security and responsibilities. And implement an open-door policy to allow employees to bring questions or concerns to leadership.
  • Responsibly rebalance workloads. Employees lose trust if they feel like you don’t care about them. And nothing makes them feel uncared for like a sudden doubling of their workload without explanation or extra compensation. With missing employees, work does need to be shuffled—but you can accomplish that while building trust at the same time. Work with leaders and managers to redesign workflows, reprioritize plans and projects, and delegate as effectively as possible. Plus, you should always meet with each person before giving them more work to ensure that they have the bandwidth and capacity to handle extra.

These simple steps will help employees trust that leadership has their best interests at heart. Openly communicating and fairly rebalancing workloads won’t solve everything, but they’re great first steps.

How to Increase Motivation After Layoffs

Motivation can be defined as the desire and willingness to do something. After layoffs, employees may lose that desire, or they may struggle with disengagement. How do you keep employees excited about and engaged in the work they do after such a big, frightening change? Here are some ideas:

  • Celebrate and build on success. You should never, ever stop acknowledging and recognizing your employees, and that’s especially true after layoffs. Keep careful watch for any opportunity to congratulate someone, celebrate a win, or recognize an employee’s accomplishment. An employee recognition software can make this easy and simple—and yes, we argue that you should put more effort and budget toward employee recognition than ever.
  • Connect work to purpose. People find meaning in their work when they see the value behind it. Help your employees understand that everything they do has value (especially now!). Make sure that each employee knows how their work impacts the company, and, once again, recognize people for their work as often as possible.

Motivation can be hard to measure but with even these two steps, you’ll be surprised at how much more motivated and excited your remaining employees will be.

How to Maintain Morale After Layoffs

Morale can be defined as the attitude or overall outlook that employees have toward your business. How do they feel coming into work every day? This attitude, mindset, approach, etc., can have a huge impact on productivity. And layoffs increase employee stress, burnout, and insecurity, which all lead to lower morale. Here are some ways that you can boost employee morale:

  • Focus on the positives (while being respectful). You want to show as much support as you can toward your former employees, whether through LinkedIn networking or writing letters of recommendation. However, you should also focus on the remaining positives at your business. There are always silver linings for those who look! Offer new promotions or career growth opportunities; hold office parties or team building activities so that people can still meet and spend time with the awesome people around them; and promote different recognition programs, such as wellness or peer-to-peer, to support employees in different aspects of their lives.
  • Recalculate benefits with a smaller workforce. Are there ways that you can reallocate your now-free funds to expand benefits for your remaining employees? Nothing boosts morale like some extra cash, better health benefits, or free meals. Find innovative benefits that are low-cost but still desirable—your employees will love the efforts you make to support them, even during hard times.

Don’t let the attitude of anxiety, sadness, or survivor’s guilt pervade your office. Instead, focus on the positives and work to support your employees to the best of your ability.

Layoffs May Be Necessary—Negative Feelings Aren’t

In hard times, downsizing may be a step your company has to take. And that stinks. There’s no getting around the fact that layoffs are hard. But you can take these steps to make the process easier for everyone to handle. Be supportive, understanding, and communicative. And celebrate the good around you while recognizing people’s wins (we really can’t understate the importance of employee recognition after layoffs). If you do these things, you may be surprised at how easily your employees bounce back after layoffs.