How to Support Your Team Throughout Layoffs

8 Apr ‘22
5 min
Work performance
Annemarie Andre
Reviewed by psychologist Marina Pacini
Two cartoon figures in the office, one is disappointed
In times of inflation, recession and economic uncertainties, layoffs happen across various industries worldwide. During these challenging times, prioritising mental well-being is crucial. It helps affected individuals cope with stress and navigate future opportunities. 


In this article, you’ll learn how you, as a manager, can navigate the difficult process of laying off team members and the best ways to support them.


The importance of mental well-being guidance during layoffs 



The impact of layoffs on individual mental well-being is significant. During the Great Depression, symptoms of depression rose by 3.4% in Europe following a wave of job losses in the workplace. These figures were even higher when company closures were unexpected.


As well as their income, laid-off people also lose their way of structuring their time, their sense of purpose, certain social connections, their status, and the activities that keep them busy during the day.



As a manager, you might have known for some time that layoffs were inevitable, but team members are often caught completely off guard when the announcement is made. That’s why it’s essential to prepare for these conversations and to be particularly empathetic about your team members’ feelings. You can also recommend psychological guidance to your team to help them throughout the process.



These five tips from psychologist Marina Pacini will help you support colleagues to the best of your abilities both during and after the layoff process:


1. Be prepared


Even if there isn’t always a lot of time to communicate when you’re laying people off, you should always prepare thoroughly for the conversation and maintain certain standards. “During the announcement, feelings will get hurt and your team members will experience negative emotions, like uncertainty,” says psychologist Marina.


As a manager, you can’t expect to communicate such life-changing news to your colleagues without them having an emotional response to it – even if they aren’t personally affected by the decision.


That said, there are a few things that you need to be aware of when announcing layoffs. “Express your message clearly and share how you’re feeling with the members of your team,” Marina recommends.


“You can also ask the team members how they’re doing, what questions and concerns they have, and give them time to process this news.” The important thing is the way you convey this news. “Always communicate in  a calm and empathetic tone,” adds Marina.


2. Communicate openly and transparently


If possible, it’s best to have difficult conversations like this in person and not via video call. Ideally, you should book a meeting room, giving your colleagues time to pause and reflect on the decision for a while afterwards.


“It’s best if the manager includes a short pause, allowing the team member to express their own opinion,” says Marina. 


For example, you can simply leave the room and come back a little while later. “Ask your colleague directly if they’d like to have a moment in private before continuing with the conversation.


Ask questions like: ‘’How can I help? How are you doing?” This can help to calm and comfort the team member.


3. Remain objective and rebuild trust


As soon as you’ve let the affected colleague know, you should communicate the decision to the entire team. As a manager, you need to communicate this decision objectively with a calm and empathetic tone.


“Explaining it as a business decision might make other team members think that you haven’t considered the personal implications,” says Marina.


Following the layoffs, colleagues will then feel insecure and keep wondering if the same thing is going to happen to them. Address these fears directly by explicitly communicating that you want to restore a safe atmosphere within the team.


“Uncertainty is one of the main causes of poor trust and reduced motivation,” says psychologist Marina, explaining further: “You can hold weekly and monthly team meetings or one-on-one meetings to discuss personal feelings or insecurities.”


Individuals remaining within the company will also feel more secure if they’re always kept in the loop, in terms of employee decisions or new policies.


4. Offer support


A layoff isn’t a single event, it’s a lengthy process. Following the initial conversation, the team member’s challenges are just beginning.


They need to reevaluate, start filling in application forms, and get organised. Depending on how friendly the atmosphere is within your company, you can also make a significant difference after the layoff.


How to support team members after laying them off: 


  • Write them a personal email (or WhatsApp message) empathetically explaining that you’re there for them.
  • Offer to keep an eye out for opportunities in your network and share their resume with relevant contacts.
  • Offer to write positive endorsements for their LinkedIn profile or ask the employee which aspects they’d like you to focus on in your letter of recommendation.
  • Encourage them access to professional guidance from certified psychologists for their mental well-being challenges.


5. Learn to manage your feelings of guilt


Whether it’s the first time in your career that you’ve had to lay someone off or you had a great relationship with this particular team member: Laying somebody off is never easy. 

Especially in cases like this, you might find yourself feeling guilty as a manager – because the layoff can have very little to do with the individual’s job performance.


“Remember that it wasn’t a personal decision and that layoffs are sometimes unavoidable,” says Marina. “Objectivity can help you to rationalise feelings of guilt during the layoff process.” If these feelings of guilt persist, you can also speak to somebody you know or a psychologist about it.


There are always feelings involved where layoffs are concerned. Nobody is expecting you to get through this without having some kind of emotional response. 


With OpenUp you can get psychological guidance when needed and ensure that your organisation survives this difficult process well. 

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