When confronted with the need to eliminate or reduce positions, some managers may be reluctant to share information out of fear that employees will leave for other jobs before the unit is ready, or that they will become upset and unproductive. Instead, it is almost universally the case that employees respond best when they receive accurate and timely information about the circumstances the unit faces. Your unit's Human Resources Consultant can help you to be prepared to meet your unit's communication needs.
If employees remaining in the unit after layoffs believe that management has neglected their needs by withholding critical information for too long, they may not trust management, may not support changes in work, and may look for other employment opportunities just when their contributions are most needed.
Your communication to employees should be:
Tailor communication to the circumstances of the layoff and the dynamics of the workplace. For example, if one or two employees must be laid off because of loss of grant funding, the employee communication will need to recognize that:
When significant funding reductions and/or departmental restructuring are anticipated, employees will be anxious about their own security and look to management for information that will help them know what to expect. If this is your situation, share as much information as you reasonably can about your assessment and planning process so employees do not feel left in the dark. In the absence of real information, rumors may propagate and disrupt the workplace.
If employees do not know of the situation, determine how soon you can tell them about it.
Anticipate that employees whose positions are being eliminated or reduced will want to know how the decisions about which positions to eliminate were made.
Group meetings can be effective if affected employees get along and trust each other. However, if the group is not very cohesive or if there is a history of conflict, consider meeting individually so that employees will feel free to air any concerns they may have.
Employees will want to know how service or performance expectations will be adjusted after a significant staff reduction. Be prepared to tell employees how you plan to make adjustments to service standards and/or expectations. Be sure to share that information with affected clients.
If employees do not see management acknowledge that "things are different" and that expectations of them are therefore different, they are likely to feel that the burden of the reductions is falling on their shoulders and that management has not developed a comprehensive plan.
We all react differently to information that will affect our employment adversely. Some will immediately begin to marshal financial resources and develop an action plan for a job change. Others may be daunted by the challenges they will face and experience fear, shock, anger, grief, a sense of helplessness, depression, or difficulty focusing on tasks.
Employees who remain after staff reductions may also need support. They may experience guilt if close friends have lost their jobs. If management has not adequately addressed revised service plans, employees may be angry and frustrated. They may not deliver services effectively and share their frustrations with customers and employees in other units.