When a company is going through a rough patch that results in new leadership, a change in direction or layoffs, leadership’s actions during the fallout can make or break the recovery. After layoffs, employees will naturally feel frustrated, anxious and potentially blindsided. They feel like they lack control, which may lead to resistance and skepticism. While some will choose to leave immediately, other will stay and instinctively go into self-preservation mode. Unfortunately, what an organization needs most during this time is for all employees to come together and rally around a comeback strategy.
The attitudes and actions of leadership during this time will be closely monitored and analyzed by employees, so it’s essential to remain level-headed and calm. Be careful not to react too quickly or emotionally. Don’t let them see you sweat—because if you don’t believe in your organization, why would they?
In addition to a calm demeanor, there are a few actions your company’s leaders should take to reassure then rally your employees.
Understand Your Employees’ Mindset
Before sharing bad news with your employees, you’ve likely had some time to process and accept the changes. You employees will also need time to sit with the new information. Know that they’re feeling uncertain about their future and potentially frustrated if their friends and co-workers were just let go. It will take time for everyone to get on board with the new direction, so don’t get frustrated with their resistance to change. Try to understand how they’re feeling, then communicate that to them and let them know you’re available to answer questions or talk through what happened.
Acknowledge What Happened
It’s much easier for people to cope with bad news than deal with the unknown. The unknown can be paralyzing and may lead people to prematurely jump ship. When the bad news is announced, lead with the facts and be as transparent as possible. Be sure to communicate why things happened and discuss the rationale behind all decisions that were made. Acknowledge if mistakes were made and explain how you plan to correct them in the future.
It’s also important to clearly communicate where the company is at, sharing as much data as possible. If you’re able to share financials, and sales numbers—good or bad—do that. It will help people comprehend past actions and recognize future progress.
Finally, know that customers, the media and other professionals will have questions about the changes once they are made public. Equip your employees with proper messages they can share with those who come into contact with them.
Explain the New Direction and Expectations
In addition to explaining what went wrong, be sure to communicate the future direction of the company. Identify the top three to five organizational priorities for the next six months, why they are important and how employees can achieve the new goals. After speaking with the organization as a whole, meet with individual teams to ensure they understand the new mission and how it relates to their individual roles.
Once you’ve explained your expectations, get feedback from your employees—and truly listen. Find out what concerns they have. Ask for their thoughts on the new direction of the company and encourage them to poke holes in your strategies.
Employees are likely feeling like an outsider at this point in time, so by asking for their input, you’re pulling them back in, making them feel like part of the organization. As an added bonus, you may get valuable feedback on your plan.
Motivate the Troops
In explaining what went wrong and where you plan to take the company, it’s important to do it in a way that frames the situation as a challenge and proposed solution. Rather than harping on a dire situation that could get worse, encourage your team to look at this as a challenge waiting to be solved. If numbers are rapidly dropping, use the sense of urgency as a motivator. Rather than scaring employees into proving their worth, think of your company address as a battle cry to rally the troops. Inspire unity, not competition.
This is also a great opportunity to encourage employees to search for new, more efficient ways to conduct business. By starting from scratch, you’ll hopefully end up building something better, stronger and longer-lasting than what you had before.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Once things get rolling, be sure to celebrate small victories. Know that morale might be low for some time and do what you can to recognize forward motion without being overly showy or self-congratulatory.
You should also be on the lookout for emerging leaders during this time. Change can be good for some individuals and you might find that the shakeup and new demands have presented the ideal conditions for a particular individual to thrive.
Finally, once you’re righted the ship and are ready to rebuild your organization, contact the team at PeopleFoundry to access the best talent in the Midwest. For more information on creating a positive energy at work, read our post about building a fun company culture.