Company Downsizing: 3 Essentials to Keep Your Team’s Trust

Maintaining trust after a company downsizing is essential to move forward. Watching co-workers pack boxes and exit the building is an unsettling experience. Your teams may feel blindsided. The ground becomes shaky. As a result, rumors spread.

Remaining team members will experience a range of emotions – concern for their colleagues who were let go, guilt for surviving the layoff, and fear for their future with the company. Likewise, it is an emotional time for many reasons.

As a manager, you set the tone for recovery and regaining trust after a company downsizing. Address uncertainty head-on and find your new normal with these 3 tips.

1. Make Communication a Priority after a Company Downsizing

It is critical to address your team immediately after a layoff occurs. If you don’t provide details, employees will make assumptions of their own. Be honest about the situation and the company’s rationale for the layoff. Next, share facts to help everyone comprehend what has happened. Lastly, expect a wide range of responses. Emotions and reactions will vary from person to person.

Uncertainty will grow if people’s fears and concerns are not addressed. You will likely notice a drop in productivity, hushed conversations behind closed doors, and also a spike in the use of sick or PTO time. This breakdown in communication can cause your team to lose focus and trust after a company downsizing.

However, you can avoid these pitfalls if you commit to being a present leader during this time. Be available to address your team’s uncertainty and field pressing questions as they arise.

2. Take an Honest Look at Delegating Tasks and Filling Gaps

Some team members will wonder, “How will I maintain quality, deadlines, and my sanity while taking on more work?” People may panic at the thought of absorbing additional responsibilities, but proper planning can alleviate concerns.

Readjusting workloads will be a huge stressor for everyone. You can prepare for this by carefully analyzing who will take on new assignments, or which projects will be put on the back burner during the transition, and what skill sets will be needed to accomplish the high priority work.

Meet with the individuals whose jobs are changing to clarify their role and objectives. Allow them time to share their questions and concerns, and when possible, include them in the decision-making process. This is a huge step in regaining their trust in the aftermath of a company downsizing.

Ask remaining employees what they love about their job, what scares them about the work you want them to take on, and also what they would like to see changed. Their perspective might offer insights you did not anticipate or different solutions that will be better for everyone involved.

Likewise, meet with your team regularly to reinforce departmental goals, roles, and responsibilities. Anticipate that there will be hiccups and setbacks in the beginning, and ensure everyone is on the same page throughout the transition.

3. Allow Time to Find a New Normal

Understand that some employees – perhaps even yourself – will be resistant to change. Managers need to be bold and share where they fall on a change scale, even if it is low. Acknowledging that change can be frustrating and scary – even for you – will help your team realize you are all in it together. You may find training on leading company recovery invaluable during the transition.

Identify key people who are struggling with the transition and contact HR to learn what coaching is available for those individuals. If they were asked to utilize a new skill set or an undeveloped skill set, put resources in place to help them succeed. In addition, leverage resources from your outplacement provider to effectively guide change management. (Searching for an outplacement firm? Our free assessment tool will help you evaluate the perfect provider for you.)

After a company downsizing, it will take time for everyone to adapt, but a new normal will eventually emerge. With the right plan, new roles and responsibilities will become more clearly defined. Employees will develop competencies in new tasks. They’ll also feel more confident in their role. This helps them regain their sense of trust in the company.

Don’t forget about your own needs in the process. Your personal reaction to these changes will impact your team. Above all, take care of yourself. Utilize your personal support system. In addition, implement ways for you to manage your own stress level.