When talking about redundancy, our first thoughts are often for those put “at risk” of potentially losing their job. Nevertheless, it is important to think about your wider team and how you support them through change and the uncertainty ahead.

The Importance of Line Management

Let’s start with your Line Managers. Delivering the news is never a comfortable experience. In over 40 years of dealing with redundancy situations, I have never met a manager or leader who is relishing announcing potential redundancies.

For some, it is likely to be the first time they’ve ever had to tell a member of their team they may not have a job any more. Leaders and managers will have invested in their teams. They’ve hired them, trained, and developed them and worked alongside them. They may know their families and personal circumstances.

As a result, there can be so much shared history and sense of past achievement that letting someone go can be a hugely stressful experience. Moreover, there can be sense of being powerless to change or influence the decisions. It is inevitable that leaders also fear how those being put at risk will react to the news.

Supporting your line managers through this period is vital. Not everyone can do it. For instance, I’ve seen some Senior Executives so emotionally impacted at the thought of breaking up their team that they couldn’t lead the communication process.

Providing training and HR support is essential to keeping your managers on-message. Nonetheless, some may break ranks. Anything from abdication of accountability – “this is not my decision” – to outright resistance – “I don’t agree with it and I will fight it” – could happen. You must be absolutely convinced that those delivering the news are on-side and not at risk of “spinning” the story to make themselves appear a hero.

On “Survivor’s Guilt”

Colleagues not at risk can feel really distressed too. “Survivor’s guilt” can be a big factor. Watching a much-respected colleague pack up their things and clear their desk can be traumatic.

The big organisational risk is that the change programme itself becomes all-consuming. Consequently, people take their eye off things like customer service, quality and productivity as they become focussed on their emotions and worrying about the welfare of others. Rather than boost performance, the change programme could just set you backwards – at least in the short term.

Supporting Managers Through Change

In our experience, we have found that manager training also plays a crucial role in successfully guiding teams through these transitions. We have provided manager training in the past, and it has proven to be invaluable during times of organisational upheaval. 

By addressing both the needs of the managers and the affected employees, organisations can navigate change more effectively. This holistic approach not only helps maintain a supportive work environment but also mitigates the negative impact on overall team morale and productivity. 

Key Takeaways

What’s important is that those impacted are being treated with empathy and respect. The much over-used phrase “this is business, not personal” never helps. For those on the receiving end of redundancy it is always personal.

What does help is providing support that helps people deal with situation they are in. Crucially that includes addressing the emotional impact of change, not just the practicalities of leaving one organisation and finding a new role elsewhere.

Offering outplacement support sends a message that you care about the impact of redundancy. It helps those staying too, not just those leaving. Seeing colleagues get professional and independent support to “move on” is reassuring and re-affirms belief that the organisation cares about the impact of the people decisions it makes.

Seeing departing friends and colleagues making progress allows those who are staying to get back to business. And can help accelerate the change process.

We want to know what your thoughts are on the most critical aspect of managing redundancies, and so we’ve published a poll on our LinkedIn page.