Surviving Layoffs: A Traitify Video Series

Surviving Layoffs: Full Video Series

Heather Myers

Chief Psychology Officer | PhD | Analyzer/Mentor in Work

Everything you need to know about supporting employees surviving layoffs is in this 5-part series led by Heather Myers, Ph.D., from the research on its effects to practical steps for reducing and navigating its impact.

Here is the full series:

  1. Introduction
  2. What Is the Negative Impact?
  3. 3 Steps to Take Before & During Layoffs
  4. Rebuilding Relationships Post-Layoffs
  5. Leadership Self-Care




Continue to part two: What Is the Negative Impact?

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Hi, my name is Heather Myers, and I’m the Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify.

I'd like to welcome you today to our video blog series focused on helping organizations survive layoffs.

According to the US Department of Labor and statistics, in May 2020 unemployment was 13% compared to just 3.4% in May of 2019. Due to the pandemic organizations have had no choice but to lay off employees. Many of them have really put great care into messaging and offboarding these employees. However, recently in conversations with clients and even through conversations that I've had internally within my own organization, I've come to realize that what we really need to do is spend more time thinking about the employees we have who survived the layoffs and thinking about what we can do to help them.

Is this something that you've been thinking about in your own organization?

In this video series, we’ll explore, first, the negative impacts that layoffs have on the remaining employees. Second, steps that organizations can take during and before layoffs to help minimize the impacts of layoffs. Third, ways that organizations can work to rebuild relationships post-layoffs. And finally, what leaders can do for themselves and their teams when they too are experiencing some of these negative effects of layoffs.

So the goal for this series is really to give you tips for focusing on your employees and creating the most productive and supportive workplace possible during this very difficult time. So Stay tuned!



What Is the Negative Impact?

Continue to part three: 3 Steps to Take Before & During Layoffs

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Hi, my name's Heather Myers, and I'm the Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify.

I'd like to welcome you today to the second video in our series on helping organizations survive layoffs.

Today, we'll talk about what organizations need to understand in advance about the potential impact that layoffs can have on the remaining staff.

Both laboratory and field research show that layoffs impact emotional and physical well-being of employees, as well as the work performance of these employees post layoffs.

So what are some of the impacts on employee well-being that are felt post layoffs?

Well, employees who survive layoffs report feeling increased anxiety and fear. And these feelings are not unfounded, as 70% of companies that have layoffs will do so again within a year. So employees are afraid of losing their jobs. They’re afraid of having a job now, but that there will be more layoffs and that they too will lose their positions.

In addition, they’re also afraid of being overworked. As positions get eliminated and people get laid off, that work still exists and must be distributed among the remaining employees. And so these employees are very worried about being overworked and stressed out post layoffs.

In addition, they feel guilty. So the concept of survivor’s guilt has also been applied to people who survive layoffs. Contrary to popular belief these people don't just feel lucky to still have a job. They feel guilty, of course, for having a job when their colleagues have been fired, but they also feel resentful and sad every time they have to go to work and their friends and their colleagues aren't there and they have more work to do. They often report feeling mistrusting of management post layoffs, worried about the decisions that management has made and not agreeing with them and being mistrustful of them in general.

In addition to these impacts to psychological health and well-being, these employees also report a lack of sleep. And a lack of sleep can also lead to negative mood and also physical effects like an increased likelihood of becoming sick and having an illness of some sort.

And so how do all of these things impact the work performance of these employees?

Some evidence does suggest the insecure workers will increase the quantity of work that they produce for the short term. However, the quality of their work doesn’t increase. In fact, evidence suggests that it decreases.

These employees report that their motivation deteriorates, and that they're more likely to have an absence -- a sudden absence from work -- either because they're sick or because they're just emotionally stressed out and they feel like they can’t go into work right then. They also report having less commitment to the organization.

When asked about what they think of the organization as a whole post layoffs, the remaining employees often say that they feel like the quality of the organization itself as a whole has gone down after the layoffs. And that in particular their customer service has deteriorated, often because they don't feel there are enough people to really meet all of the demands that the customers have.

So given all of these negative impacts that layoffs can have, in the next video I'll discuss some steps that organizations can take before and during layoffs to mitigate some of these negative impacts.

In the meantime, can you think of things that your organization has done if they've experienced layoffs or procedures that they’ve put in place to try to mitigate impacts such as the ones I've described here?

Thank you for listening and I'll see you again soon.



3 Steps to Take Before & During Layoffs

Continue to part four: Rebuilding Relationships Post-Layoffs

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Hi, my name's Heather Myers, and I’m the Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify.

I’d like to welcome you back to our third video on surviving layoffs. If you missed the first two, no worries. You can find [them above].

In the last video, we discussed the impacts of layoffs on survivors. Fear, anxiety, job insecurity, and guilt lead to lower productivity, less commitment to the organization, and a loss of trust.

So here are some tips for handling the process in a better way to reduce these effects.

First, early notification is key. Once a decision has been made it's best to let people know what they can expect. Many organizations don't do this, because they're afraid that it will have negative impacts if they let people know too soon before the layoffs actually happen. But the research does not bear this out. In fact, advance notice does not typically have negative impacts to the organization. Instead, it leads to better outcomes and better transitions. In fact, by not letting employees know, you're more likely to have it leak out and for employees to be afraid beforehand, without having all of the facts.

Next, remember that fairness reigns supreme. Layoff survivors will respond so much better if they feel that the process of selecting those who will leave was a fair one. So be clear about the process used. Explain it to all employees, not just to those who were let go; and make sure that those surviving the layoffs know what resources have been made available to those who were let go. This way they'll know that your organization cares about the employees that were laid off and has taken steps to make their transition as easy as possible, which will help to alleviate some of the guilt that the survivors feel at being still left in the organization.

Finally, train managers on how to deliver information to those who stay. Employees were less likely to have strong negative emotions and decreases in productivity if they felt that their managers communicated clearly throughout the process, if they trusted their managers, and if they felt supported by their managers every step of the way.

In sum, by communicating early and often, by showing fairness in the process, and encouraging managers to support their employees, your organization can minimize the negative impacts that layoffs will have on remaining employees.

In the next video we’ll talk about how you can rebuild any damaged relationships post-layoffs.

Stay tuned, and we’ll see you soon.



Rebuilding Relationships Post-Layoffs

Continue to part five: Leadership Self-Care

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Hi, my name's Heather Myers. I'm the Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify.

I’d like to welcome you today to the fourth video in our Surviving Layoffs series. If you missed any of the earlier videos you can find [them above].

In our last video, we talked about how to reduce the impact of layoffs on remaining employees through early notification, fairness, and manager training. However, even if your organization follows these steps, relationships can still be damaged, and you may have some employees who are distrustful of the organization and many employees who are anxious or fearful.

So in this video we’ll discuss three steps that you can take to rebuild these relationships.

First, measure and report meaningful success outcomes of the layoffs.

Report on any cost-savings or health metrics of the organization, and show how these improve over time. Tracking these changes and reporting them to your employees can help alleviate fears that there will be more layoffs and improve their sense of job security.

Second, set up support resources for the remaining team members.

It is important for your employees to have a neutral place to air any concerns or grievances. Additionally, setting up internal peer support groups can be a great way for your team members to discuss what they’re feeling and get any advice from people going through the same thing without worrying about what their managers might hear or think.

Additionally, it is so important to remind people of any external resources available to them. These may be mental health resources or coaches. But any resources that you have that are provided outside of your organization, it's important to remind your employees of that at this time, as well.

And then finally, show commitment to continued Learning and Development for your employees. Let them know that you're going to look to them for positions, internal mobility, and promotion. Doing these things shows your employees that you're invested in them, that you care about them, and that you want them to succeed along with your organization.

Third, make sure that your employees get enough one-on-one time with their managers.

Managers should try to touch base with their direct reports daily, if it all possible -- especially the first week or two after the layoffs. They need to listen to any complaints or concerns that their employees have and give them a space to vent.

Then, they can try to shift the focus on to things that they can control. For example, managers should make sure that their direct reports eliminate any unnecessary or time-wasting meetings from their schedule, particularly if they're already feeling overworked and stressed out.

Additionally, they should ensure that the workload of their direct reports is not unreasonable, and if it is they should adjust that accordingly. It is far better to delay a project or a deadline, than to put too much work on an already stressed population.

In summary, reporting on successes of the organization, providing support resources, and increasing thoughtful one-on-one time with managers can help organizations make great strides in repairing these relationships.

In our final video, we’ll discuss what your leadership team can do to help care for themselves during difficult times.

Thank you, and have a great day.



Leadership Self-Care

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Hi, I’m Heather Myers, the Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify.

I’d like to welcome you back to the fifth and final video in our Surviving Layoffs series.

This video will talk about what your organization can do to support your leadership and what leaders can do to help take care of themselves during this difficult time.

So let's start by talking about what your organization can do to take care of leaders.

Make sure that leaders have someone they can turn to, a place where they can air their concerns and grievances without worrying about upper management hearing or knowing what they're talking about. If you have any external resources available, remind your managers of what you have available for them.

Then, be as transparent as possible in communications with them. Share with your leaders the rationale behind all decisions, as well as the organizational goals and the anticipated outcomes. Let them know what they are expected to do. Are they the ones who are going to choose who from their team gets let go or is that something that you are going to tell them? Are they expected to deliver the news to the people who are getting laid off and to the people who are staying? Be very clear about what information they can and should share, and what they should not.

And finally, make upper management available to answer any questions and discuss any problems that might arise. It’s so important for your managers to have -- and leaders -- to have access to upper management for these kinds of situations.

So then what can leaders do to help take care of themselves.

First of all, remember you are not superhuman, and you don't have to be. Allow yourself to be human. Take a day or two off, or even just a couple hours if you can, to process what's going on and to shift your own mindset. Remember, sometimes you have to make the hard call, and that's okay. Don't beat yourself up over it, but do give yourself time to process the emotions that you're feeling, and then get back into it.

Then be proactive. Convince yourself to have the difficult conversations, be they with upper management or with your direct reports. Let other people express their emotions, and double down on creating a psychologically safe environment -- where people feel and know that they can come to you and air their concerns without there being repercussions for them. Listen to what they have to say and repeat it back to them. You want to make sure that you understand what they're saying, and you want them to really, truly feel heard.

And finally, be honest. Communicate on the rationale for the layoffs and any progress towards the company's goals. If you can't tell them something, be honest about that, as well. Remember, you are not all-knowing, and no one expects you to be. Finally, acknowledge the emotions that everyone is feeling. It's okay to have them. Acknowledge them, as well as communicating the logic behind the decisions.

If you do these things, your direct reports will feel heard and listened to and taken care of during this process, which will lead to a smoother transition for all of you.

This concludes our Surviving Layoffs series. I hope it's been helpful. Thank you for listening, and have a great day.



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