To enable an organisation to achieve the objectives of the restructure, it is critical that a meeting with remaining employees take place as soon as possible after the restructure has been completed.
Communicate with remaining employees
Successful completion of a restructure plan requires an urgent commitment on the part of management to obtain support from the remaining employees. This requires communicating as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, and to providing ongoing support to the remaining employees.
The remaining employees are the new organisation. As such, they need:
- To be informed of the changes that have occurred and the reasons for the changes.
- To be reassured that this restructure is complete, and they are valued members of the organisation.
- To be told briefly that the individuals affected by the restructure are receiving financial and career support to assist them in their transition. Since this is a time when rumours flourish, encourage employees to verify rumours with the leadership team.
Come to terms with your own emotions
Recognising your own feelings regarding the restructure is an important first step in preparing yourself to deal with the reality.
While you may feel vulnerable yourself, you need to be prepared for verbal assaults on your integrity or management style by the remaining employees. They are just beginning to react to the restructure and are dealing with an array of emotions from the sadness of losing colleagues to the fear that they may be next.
To help cope with these emotions, some employees may feel a need to place blame. Unfortunately, the closest person they know is you, their manager, and thus the likeliest to be blamed. Open, immediate communication will significantly reduce the chance of any misunderstandings.
Remember that the remaining employees are the new organisation – they are the people who will help lead the new organisation through the difficulties ahead, and they need to know that they are an integral part of the organisation. It is time to engage and empower your staff.
Be sensitive to remaining employee reactions after a restructure
Be sensitive to emotional reactions among the remaining employees. Employee feelings can range from fear to relief. Some remaining employees may feel guilty that they were spared, others may be angry that management was not able to prevent this. There may even be some individuals upset that they were not chosen. In organisations that have experienced a previous downsizing, survivors may feel a betrayal of trust – it wasn’t supposed to happen again.
It is not unusual for assumptions about how layoff selections were determined to circulate, as well as rumours about future restructure. If the restructure is a result of a merger, then it is common to hear staff discuss which side is being favoured. Do your best to calm everyone, but remember that some of this is natural and will fade with time.
Some employees will experience higher stress levels and may act out their feelings in atypical ways. They could be more verbal than in the past about disagreeing with a new management policy or not be as punctual as usual. While a manager needs to keep the rules consistent, he or she also needs to be accepting, for a short period of time, of atypical behaviour as employees adapt to the changing organisation. This will necessarily be a judgement decision on each manager’s part and should be discussed with human resources and senior management so that a consistent approach is implemented across the organisation.
Rather than simply recognising disrupting behaviours as inappropriate, the manager will benefit from giving employees the opportunity to vent his/her feelings and ask questions. Find ways to get employees talking in the safety of a group. When issues can be openly discussed without reprisal and with some attempt at resolution on your part, the workplace can begin to heal and organisational objectives can be addressed.
Translate loss to empowerment
This is the crucial time when remaining employees need reassurance of their worth to the organisation. A variety of actions on your part can help provide that kind of reassurance.
- Share information willingly about the new structure; help employees manage new workloads, and be available to answer questions.
- Be prepared for questions about job security, the quality of life in the restructured organisation, and plans for the future — both from an individual and organisational perspective.
- Be visible and available, and allocate time in your diary to meet with staff.
- Make sure each employee knows that they are a valued member of the new organisation.
- Challenge each employee to create his/her own new image in the new organisation. This is a time when the organisation and the employee can both re-imagine themselves.
Continued visibility, open, truthful and constant communication, and support by management will promote a smoother transition and faster recovery following a restructure.