Balancing the Human Side of Redundancy

The spectre of redundancy looms large over many of us at this time; if you’re an employer your emotions might be cycling through fear, failure, despair and anger.  And if you’re an employee on the receiving end of that redundancy notice you’re also likely to be fearful of the future, perhaps angry and despairing too.

Redundancies can happen at any time for a number of reasons, but right now they are generally beyond any business owner’s control.  That doesn’t make it easier and, in some ways, it is even more frustrating.  So, as a business leader, all you can do is focus on the things you can control and one of those is to be as humane as possible throughout. We’re finding through our research that the “way” that people are treated is becoming more of a priority than ever.

But firstly, as a leader, it’s vital that you take time to think about yourself.  Redundancies take their toll on everyone, and you need to be performing at your best.  The only way you can do that, is if you take care of you, in any way that helps you to recharge.  Also, encourage your team to do the same and ensure you put it into practice each day.

Secondly, we want to talk about the importance of honesty.  Business leaders are often anxious about talking to employees about potential redundancies because it may lead to difficult conversations or cause worry.  Generally, people can handle difficult situations even if it causes apprehension and upset – they usually prefer to know.  It’s also important to provide employees with information in a respectful way about what might happen and that all available options will be considered to try and avoid job losses.

Thirdly, if redundancies are a possibility, a great deal of planning will be taking place.  It’s important to ensure you have a sound business case and know what essential skills will be needed for the future.  Transparency and empathy are key as employees will be worried and will want to know what, when and how the process will take place.  They will also want to have information to help them with their concerns; eg redundancy calculation, pension and career advice and job seeking support all of which can help.  Additionally, if the business is likely to continue trading after the redundancies are completed, the remaining employees should also be considered; “survivor’s guilt” is common as well as a continuing fear of further redundancies, the impact of a potentially increased workload with fewer employees and also the emotional effect of missing colleagues and friends who may have worked together for a long time.

Lastly, you should do everything possible to be as visible and accessible to employees during this difficult period. In this time of remote working, being visible in the workplace is much more challenging.  Find out what employees want and would appreciate and then consider how best to achieve it, so that you’re being visible in the right way, that fits your culture.  Keep talking, more importantly keep listening and be as open and approachable as you can.

Remember what we said at the start of this article, take time for you, so that you perform at your best, for the sake of your business, your employees that are leaving and those that are staying.

Finally, this quote by Maya Angelou is always relevant but none more so than at times like this for both business leaders and employees.  Just be kind.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Sam Heighway