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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Motivate Survivors of a Downsizing

Following a layoff, supervisors must be aware that employees need to be motivated differently during a downsizing period versus a growth or hiring period. A supervisor who attempts to motivate his/her employees, during a downsizing, as if the company where in a growth (hiring) phase will only deteriorate their employees already poor morale.

Survivors of a layoff are frequently left with as many negative emotions and beliefs as those who were laid-off. However, many supervisors have the mistaken belief that surviving employees should feel grateful that they didn't lose their jobs; in reality, just the opposite emotions occur in most surviving employees. Surviving employees usually transition through a number of negative emotions and negative beliefs about work, management, and the company overall. Some of the negative emotions that can develop in surviving employees include confusion, anxiety, stress, victimization, grief, mistrust, apathy, and hostility. The resulting negative beliefs that can develop following a downsizing include, employees believing that their jobs are not secure, that the company has lost its direction and vision, and that the organization does not care about its employees.

Imagine how you would feel following a downsizing if you questioned whether your employer was telling you the whole truth about their future plans. Most likely you will not be very motivated as you go through the motions of work, and what once motivated you in the past, at work, will not likely continue to be effective as a motivator following the downsizing.

In order to motivate surviving employees, supervisors need to grasp the understanding that a period of rebuilding will need to occur before past motivators will work again to motivate employees. Following a downsizing, supervisors should spend time focusing on rebuilding their employees' attitudes and emotions back to where they were during the last growth (hiring) phase in the organization.

1.) The best way to correct negative beliefs, resulting from a downsizing, is to provide employees with frequent, truthful, and direct communication. Prior to a corporate downsizing, communications within an organization are usually secretive, restrictive, and minimal. The resulting secretive communication leads to employees developing beliefs that are suspicious of future communications. Therefore, after a downsizing has occurred, company communication should become more frequent and direct in order to help employees recover from their suspicious beliefs and mistrustful emotions. If future layoffs may occur, it's best to be honest and tell the employees about it directly versus through the rumor mill.

2.) The best way to correct negative emotions, resulting from a downsizing, is with empathy and positive emotions. During the first two to three weeks following a downsizing, a supervisor should focus on being empathetic with his/her employees' emotions. (Empathy: the ability to understand another's emotions, without attempting to stop or alter those emotions.) After two to three weeks of displaying empathy, it's time for the supervisor to start countering negative emotions with positive emotions and negative beliefs with truthful and hopeful beliefs.

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