Why is it that when tough things happen in business they are often couched in jargon? Down-sizing; undergoing an exercise; laying-off; cutting back; redundancy operations …… It hurts in plain English too - people lose their jobs - they are victims of difficult times, but, thankfully, HR departments, outplacement agencies and business coaches can support them.
There is, though, still a blind spot among employers regarding those that are left behind - 'redundancy survivors.' Company decision-makers have said: "we could really have done with you last year / last month when we 'let go' so many employees…… but now everything is under control and fine again". The remaining staff feel and talk a very different language. They have often been to hell and are not really back again. They have endured the Chinese whispers and worries about when and where the redundancies would hit, the atmosphere leading up to colleagues leaving, the resulting void of personnel and skills sets and, to cap it all, carry on with fewer staff struggling to cope with the same amount of work. There are also feelings of guilt, akin to being a plane crash survivor, exacerbated by the nagging question - "might it be my turn next?"
My professional experience confirms that helping those being made redundant is vital, but it is equally important to support those who stay. Companies need to take preventative and restorative action as soon as they contemplate any 'down-sizing' and continue that process after the operation has been completed. I have worked with staff from a service industry who were yet again being re-organised. It was hard, I suggested to one distressed client, having the goal posts moved. He answered, "I can cope with that, but I can't play football on a rugby pitch." He felt abandoned and insecure. We had four intensive coaching sessions and two meetings with his new line-manager to evaluate his position, clarify his job description and organise necessary training so he could tackle his new and challenging job with renewed confidence.
The follow up session with him has confirmed the positive impact of the support and the value of investment in those who survive the lay-offs. It's the remaining staff after all that carry on to shape the post-redundancy organisation and its success in both personnel and business terms.
Our series of meetings with Caroline were exceptionally useful for us to get insight into the historical issues in the department. This is going to give us a common understanding and a firm base from which to build a working and productive relationship.