Leading Through Uncertainty: 5 Ways to Motivate and Support Your Team After Layoffs


It’s a common but stressful scenario: Your company has just gone through a round of layoffs, and in addition to people losing their jobs, some roles have changed. Employees may feel scared, anxious, distracted, and worried about their future. Leading a team with so much uncertainty and anxiety can be challenging. However, as a people leader, you are responsible for pulling your team out of the chaos and helping them navigate the new normal.

It might not feel like it, but leading through uncertainty and easing anxieties is possible. If you want to prevent turnover, your next steps are crucial. The following five steps outline the best ways for teams to rebound and become calmer, more productive, and more motivated.

Clear Communication:

One of the most critical steps you can take as a leader is to give your team as much information as possible. Explain why the layoffs happened and be transparent, honest, authentic, and truthful. You might not know all the details, but sharing what you know is essential. The worst thing companies can do after a layoff or re-organization is withhold information. It’s important to be as straightforward as possible because without a proper communication strategy, rumors will run rampant, and people will be worried that they are next on the chopping block. This ambiguity often results in turnover of employees concerned about their financial future.

The most important details you should share include the company’s plan to return to financial health and how your team is essential to this plan. Give your team time to ask questions and answer them honestly. Schedule 1:1’s with each team member to provide them with time to ask questions they might not want to ask in front of the rest of the group. Feeling seen and heard is vital to establishing trust.

Lead with Empathy:

The aftermath of a layoff can leave remaining team members feeling survivor’s guilt. The guilt they feel for keeping their jobs while their team members are laid off may lead to anger, frustration, and grief, especially if the layoffs impacted their team members. If these layoffs affected your team, people likely lost coworkers they were close to, and your team dynamic has changed. These feelings can cause a lack of motivation and helplessness, making their day-to-day miserable and negatively impacting the entire team. It’s important to acknowledge that the remaining team members may be experiencing survivor’s guilt, stress, and anxiety and that this is normal. During 1:1’s with team members, identify if some are struggling more than others and check in with them often. Connect with your HR partners to get support and advice for struggling employees.

Establish Trust:

After a layoff, it’s common for trust in the company to waver. For a team to be productive and successful, trust is essential. Trust helps create a positive work environment, helps foster a sense of calm and helps retain employees. Cultivating confidence in your team can look many ways, and an excellent first place to start is through building relationships and working on team engagement. This is especially important with remote or hybrid teams, who might be increasingly disconnected during uncertain times. Low-key group events such as going out for lunch can help foster relationship building without putting additional labor on the team. Try not to overthink it; any opportunity for the group to bond together goes a long way in creating a positive culture.

It’s also vital to ensure you have an open communication channel and that your team can share thoughts and feelings without fear of punishment. Employees feel seen, heard, and supported by creating a safe and supportive work environment.

Evaluate Your Team’s Needs:

Each team member performs a role that directly correlates to your business’s success, and acknowledging this helps them feel better connected to the company.  After a layoff, explaining how each member fits into the new organizational picture will help team members feel more secure in their roles.  Explain their value and what unique skills and experience they bring. Helping your team feel essential to the company’s future will help them feel empowered and safe.

Take the time to meet with each team member individually to understand the best way to support and encourage them during this change. After layoffs, some departments are hit harder than others, which sometimes means people absorb more workload. Ensure your team’s workload is balanced and manageable to prevent burnout and high turnover.

Assess the new makeup of the team to ensure everyone has the skills needed to maintain targets and achieve goals. Can you give your team access to training programs to develop new skills? Look for companies like Bosstrack that offer online courses and partner team members with mentors to help them feel more comfortable in their new roles.

This is also a great time to look at ways to reduce anything negatively impacting productivity. Is there a way to minimize meetings and allow more work time? Help your team prioritize tasks and remove distractions.

Set Goals and Celebrate Wins:

Once the initial shock wears off, focusing on goal setting and giving your team reasons to celebrate is essential. Your team will feel more in control and connected if they have tasks to complete and something to work towards. Involve them in establishing goals and figuring out the steps to get there. Actively encouraging feedback from team members can help promote communication and engagement and help build a positive team culture. As your team meets milestones, recognize hard work, and celebrate success. Celebrating all achievements, no matter how big or small, helps create a positive work environment and fosters unity.

Layoffs can be challenging to manage, but by utilizing the above strategies, you can help your team not only survive but thrive.  If you need extra support in building trust and confidence, join the Bosstrack Boss Network and gain access to the Building Trust with your team course!

Our Contributor:

Lisa Stanton is a Toronto-based writer. She loves exploring the intersection of business and the metaphysical world through writing.


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