How to support your employee mental health during organizational downsizing

How to support your employee mental health during organizational downsizing

The economic world around us is a very unpredictable place. Post-pandemic this scenario has been becoming a rather constant event in every individual’s life. The pandemic impacted organizations on many levels and some of its aftereffects are still being explored through various studies and observations. The most common among them is having to cut down on the workforce to save costs and companies from an economic crisis. Technological advancements contributed to a change in consumer behavior resulting in the downsizing and even shutting down of a few organizations. 

The process of laying off employees can be difficult for both the employer and the employees and it becomes more important than ever to handle it with utmost care. Layoffs do not only affect those who get laid off but also those who remain. A large research study of US workers reveals that organizational downsizing negatively impacted employees’ commitment to the organization and their perceived performance.

In this article, we will be focusing on trying our best to take care of employee’s mental health during such a difficult decision-making time. Along with helping employees build resilience, it is equally crucial that they feel understood and validated if and when they try to express their emotions.

The importance of communication during layoffs:

While it can be very tough, it is absolutely important to be transparent with your employees about the decisions you are planning to make. The news may come as a shock for the employees but clear communication always helps and it allows employees at least some time to process the news before it is done. Open communication also helps in maintaining trust in the leadership even though the result may not be pleasant or in the employee’s favor. Some legalities can create an obstacle in transparent communication and in such cases, you should focus on letting employees feel their emotions and validating their emotions.

Highlight their strengths and victories

Layoffs can be even more challenging for small companies. In small workplaces, the amount of interaction and teamwork required is even higher and that can make the laying-off process emotionally difficult for both the employee and the employer. But even though one journey is ending, it does not have to leave a scar. You can plan an honest, heartwarming gathering where you can express what the employee’s contribution meant to you and the company. You can highlight their strengths and talk about skills that they picked up along their journey. You can make them feel valued by sharing what you truly feel about their skills and experience. This will help create a positive environment and help employees feel self-confident when it comes to their professional skills.

Offer their support and be empathic

Every individual has a different way of coping with challenges. Some employees may start to actively look out for solutions while some employees may take their time in processing this layoff and the changes it is going to bring up for them and both are okay. There is no one right way to deal with this emotional experience. Let employees feel their feelings. Do not try to challenge or invalidate their emotions because it can only make this worse for them. 

Offer them a listening ear and allow them a safe space to talk about it. Offering professional support to navigate through this can be a great tool to explore. A Mental Health Professional can hold space, offer emotional support, and help people develop resilience to cope better with the layoffs by acknowledging the impact it can have on other areas of their lives. 

Redirect them toward the alternatives

You can redirect them to any noteworthy and fitting opportunities or profiles from your professional network. Maximize your potential while doing so. There can be other ways like creating a forum with all the job listings or building a repository of your employees with their work experiences, responsibilities, and areas of expertise and making it available in your network. This allows employees to still stay connected and not feel lost and isolated in this entire process of laying off and finding another job. 

Address their fears and allow them to ask questions

Getting laid off can very naturally make employees question their capabilities. Some employees may also start to self-doubt and go in a negative spiral and it is very common for that to happen. The uncertainty and instability are scary and everyone needs to acknowledge that. When you address something, you no longer try to escape it and that helps you build strength to face it. The more you talk about your fears, the less space it takes up in your head.

Remind yourself that the layoffs happen purely from a financial point of view and the employers may have little to no control in order to avoid them. Even though it is scary, one layoff does not have the power to dictate your career journey and future. Use this time to reflect on the role you would like to take up in the future and how it can align with your professional goals. You may not have been able to choose your present but you can choose your future.