Dealing with Staff After a Termination
Here is the fourth installment of our weekly series Departing with Dignity, a conversation between Higher Landing Founder & CEO Jackie Rafter and Brian Hallamore, formerly an HR Executive with Imperial Oil. This week, Jackie and Brian discuss what employers and key managers should be doing to help remaining staff after a termination.
For earlier parts of this series click <HERE>.
Jackie Rafter: So once the announcements and staff reductions have been completed, where does that leave managers?
Brian Hallamore: Managers have several challenges. They now have a new team and probably too much work for the number of team members. If the organization structure has changed substantially, there will be confusion about how to get things done, where decision authority is, and so forth. This is coupled with the fact that they, like all employees, are dealing with the “survivor syndrome”, wherein those who remain employed feel mixtures of anxiety, anger and guilt. It is a time of great uncertainty and negativity.
Managers need to get some closure for themselves, and also for their employees. This could be as simple as having occasional informal coffee meetings for people to talk about the old organization and how they are feeling about the new one. Any way that people can start to put what happened behind them and begin to move themselves ahead (transition) to the new one will help.
For managers, this means providing as much clarity as possible about the new organization as is available, and working hard to get new roadblocks out of the way for their employees so they can be productive quickly. It is also important for managers to keep their own negativity to themselves – its ok to have those feelings, but as a leader you owe it to your people to not be negative about everything – I’d call it being positive but realistic at the same time, because it is also not helpful to be so positive that employees think you have an unrealistic view of things.
Rafter: And what about the remaining employees?
Hallamore: Many employees will also be dealing with survivor syndrome, and that mixture of anxiety, anger and guilt. Depending on what has transpired, they can feel betrayed and suspicious.
There is also the question of whether the staff reductions were enough – is there another round coming?
It is quite easy to get stuck in all of these feelings, and they are a bit insidious so sometimes an individual won’t realize that how they are feeling is really a result of the reductions and the fact that they still have a job. These feelings may not even be particularly intense (although they can be), but they will be enough to impact motivation and job performance.
For employees it is important to recognize that you are in a process – it is normal to feel this way, and you have to work out your own answers to keep moving forward with your colleagues and your work. If you are finding yourself really stuck, it is important to seek out help and support from friends, family and/or professionals. Time is a great healer, but it isn’t always sufficient.
As an employee, it can be very difficult to not get dragged into a negative mentality, if that has been a consequence of the reductions in staff. At a minimum, it can cause employees to question why they are working for a particular company or in a particular industry. It can also create a segment of employees who are trapped because they don’t view their or the organization’s future as being positive, but they have too much invested to leave.
Many employers make the mistake of assuming that employees should be “grateful to have a job”, but it is not that simple. People work for a variety of reasons aside from money, and that is especially true when it comes to selecting an employer. So it is again a natural phenomenon that an employee will reconsider the “employment proposition” and potentially acts on their assessment of it, by leaving when an opportunity arises.