Impending layoffs

With all of this uncertainty about timelines and the future, and major revenue impacts (thus likely meaning layoffs), what are some suggestions to ease people’s anxiety while decisions are being made? People are highly concerned about job security and we are surveying around that- but what actions to take if they are anxious?

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Good question, Hallie, and a tough question… Here are my thoughts:

If it’s just about dealing with the anxiety or worry, and you’ve not yet made decisions around layoffs:

  • Communicate with sympathy, and survey to gather their feedback on things like emergency response, change readiness, and engagement. Acknowledge that you are hearing employees’ feedback by sharing their results (such as by saying, “We understand these are uncertain times, and employees may feel worried and stressed. You are not alone. In fact, 40% of employees indicated in the recent survey that they are worried that this pandemic will impact their role. We would like to say…”)
  • Communicate the steps you as a company are taking to influence the things you can control
  • Communicate the things you are doing to minimize the impact of things you cannot control
  • Communicating “shared sacrifice” can sometimes be helpful too, making people feel like the burden of change is more widely distributed

Well, if the reality of the situation is that layoffs could happen, do not lie. Try to do everything we People Geeks know to maintain Org. Justice and Fairness to minimize negative reactions, including:

  • Treat people with respect
  • Be transparent with the information you divulge so people understand the situation and the rationale behind decision making

A pandemic isn’t anyone’s fault, and people are likely experience first hand the effects it’s having on many industries (service, entertainment, manufacturing, etc.), so a good process can help to make sure they don’t hold your decisions it against you. Sometimes communicating that if revenues recover there are processes in place to bring jobs back can be helpful to decrease current worry as well.

I hope that helps!

Hi. We’re in a similar position. Not sure if this is helpful for you.

As a global organisation we’ve been dealing with it on a smaller scale over the past two months as we have operations in China and most other East Asia countries. When it first started the country director asked about sending a survey and we said to wait and put in place a community forum to connect people and help them, making sure there are two-way conversations. We’re now doing this on a global scale in more than a 100 countries. We’ve run live leadership webinars with Q&As; email updates; locally colleagues have set up foums using Teams, WhatsApp, WeChat, Yammer, etc. And we’ve a global intranet Covid-19 site with official info via WHO, FCO, and a section on 'Looking after yourself and others focussing on working well remotely, well-being and work/life balance, and learning and collaboration. We may survey, but not yet as it’s not the right time for us as we’re managing a huge amount of people-related activities as a result of closure of so many offices.


Be transparent about what you are doing now and invite people to think along if they have ideas. (The survey)
Invite them with suggestions that they can they take extra unpaid leave, nice if you also need to help with homeschooling.

Please involve your talent acquisition team. They know the time it will cost to restart hiring processes, onboard/train new people, so don’t be to fast with a hire freeze and layoffs. And keep in mind: the actual onboarding, start date, can be postponed. Share the Talent recruiters opinion with your employees to explain why there is or isn’t a hire freeze. By involving their opinion you will show that you are not just taking easy (panic) calls. The topic of hires will also create a sense of security and respect.

Be transparent about bonuses, overtime and performance reviews. Not knowing is much worse than knowing that there isn’t going to be a bonus or we don’t do overtime. Let people know that performance reviews will be done over the “normal” period and not these crazy times. We can’t expect people to deliver their best performance.

And after some nice stories about other business-operation actions tell them that it is in your interest to be back on your feet as soon as possible and with hopefully the full staff, in good health.
As for now, today, layoffs are considered a solution, and we will even think twice about not extending temporary contracts.

If there are shareholders: make sure they are involved and aligned.

Hi Hallie, Often the uncertainty is worse then the actual outcome. HR can sometimes think they are protecting people by not sharing all the information then can with people. My advice would be to treat people as adults, share as much information as you can, even if you don’t have all the answers yet. As yourself, what would you like to know if you were in there shoes? Also if you have mental health support, such as an EAP, remind people about that. There are also great tools like Smiling Minds that have free apps to support people who may be feeling some anxiety. Anxiety can be good, it helps people to act and take action, it is when there is too much or it is wrongly directed that it can become a problem. Make sure if you are making people redundant, you have been clear about the business reasons and have a transparent process in place. Provide time for consultation, Fair Work Australia is watching carefully to ensure that organisations don’t breech the rules due to Covid 19. Finally, it is really important to provide people some career transition support. It is a very tough job market and it can be daunting for people who haven’t been out of work for awhile. ATS, job boards, Video interviewing, it is a whole new world and can be very intimating. Provide the support to help them get back to work.

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