The Morning After the Day Before

Following on from my recent article It’s more than just Einie, Meenie, Minie, Moe…., I wanted to discuss the human impact of staff rationalisation programs. I believe that at the core of these programs should be the consideration of the affected staff, particularly the ones left behind.

In my experience, sometimes staff members who have not been directly affected by the rationalisation program feel a sense of unease and even guilt about what has happened. The uncertainty comes from wondering if they are next and the guilt comes from over-identification with their affected colleagues.

Here are three suggestions to help ease the transition for those left behind.

Where the rationalisation program has a direct impact on an employee’s work, this should be formally discussed. During the preparation stage of the rationalisation program, each remaining employee’s role should be reviewed to determine if the program has a direct impact on their roles. If so, then the details of that impact should be made clear to the employee – any additional responsibilities, new reporting lines, new expectations, changes to their measurable performance objectives etc. The employee should be given the opportunity to discuss the changes and to determine if they can work with them. Your Human Resources partner should be engaged in this conversation to ensure that the proper HR processes are being followed in accordance with your company’s policies.

In addition, access to a professional counsellor who is external to the company and who has expertise in this field is prudent. The benefit of making this available (besides the inherent goodwill) is that people have an avenue to help make sense of what has happened. This will assist in the healing process which in turn increases the chance of a more efficient return to productivity. As with all things, the rules of engagement should be made clear from the start – the contact details of the counsellor, the areas of expertise for that counsellor, how many sessions each employee can access etc.

I would also recommend regular follow-ups, particularly with those staff members who still appear not to be coping with the transition. Keep an eye out on the affected staff members and check in with them at regular intervals. This doesn’t have to be through formal channels – maybe over a morning coffee or at the water cooler? By doing this, you have a greater chance of being forewarned about any impending problems before they land.

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