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Saving your money and your people

Attention to emotional grief processes, the 'undercurrent' during reorganisations pays off!

Especially with the newspapers bringing us bad news about economic developments on a daily basis, there seems to be no escaping reorganisations and downsizing. We all understand that when sales decline, something has to be done. That you have to prune in time in order to grow. To survive and innovate as an organisation.

But the way in which you approach this and your role in it as a manager or professional can make all the difference here.

The difference between sloppy, disrespectful downsizing with a lot of unforeseen damage: decreased loyalty, reputational damage, lawsuits, strikes, teams becoming 'loose sand', increased absenteeism, departure of talent… And careful, people-centred transformations.

“Grief after job loss is often underestimated and not recognised, despite increasing media attention. As a result, there is unnecessary tangible and intangible loss. Adequate attention and guidance during reorganisations does a lot for all parties.” (Koolmees A., Het is maar werk (1) – rouw na baanverlies, NIP, A&O-items, March 2019).

And, it is often precisely in the little things, in doable things with immediate positive impact. But you need to know about them.

For instance, you need to know:

  • that job uncertainty or loss is already an intense experience, with all the future uncertainty that comes with it, especially in these times. But emotional ('mourning') processes are about much more than loss of income. Knowing why we actually 'grieve' when we lose our job and thus lose important perspective (has everything to do with our loyalty) is essential;

  • that these processes are accompanied by intense emotions, for which we seek a listening ear and for which we need you, as a manager or professional;

  • that how you deal with the 'victims' as an organisation strongly influences the engagement of the 'survivors'.

Being a leader in reorganisations: crucial and in a tricky 'double bind' position!

Teams need their manager more than ever in these processes, no matter how self-managing they are. At the same time, as a manager or professional, you are often not in an obvious position either. Having to let people go, having to deliver and carry out bad news does not leave you untouched. But you are often ‘impacted’ as well: you yourself are uncertain about your future role or job. You are then on an emotional 'rollercoaster' yourself. You may have a better understanding of what your people are going through, but really being there for them becomes difficult when you are dealing with all kinds of emotions yourself.

It could and should be different!

In recent years, I have coached hundreds of managers and teams in major reorganisations and have come across so many distressing situations, situations that made me think: this could and should be different! Situations where much suffering and damage could have been prevented. Situations that every person involved, whether 'executioner', 'victim', 'witness' or 'survivor', could have felt better about.

Here's how to do it differently, 5 tips!

As an involved manager or professional, how can you make a positive difference in these processes?

Let me give you 5 tips to start with (much more on this in the workshop in early September):

  1. Start today, while things are still 'calm' (as far as we can still say at this point in time) by improving the 'employability' of your employees. Make them 'entrepreneurs of their own careers'. Don't wait until 'the hour U' but work day-to-day to strengthen the self-responsibility and resilience of your people. That way, they are better 'equipped' when it matters. Many managers feel too responsible for their people's careers, but mobilise their people far too little as a result.

  2. Your relationship with your employees is crucial. Invest in them, make explicit time for them and for their stories. Too often, I hear that managers actually show less of themselves in these processes. Due to uneasiness with all those emotions, due to the idea that you can't do anything anyway. People feel doubly let down as a result. You mean a lot more to your people than you think!

  3. Properly informing people is very important, but above all, your personal guidance makes all the difference! Remember that their contact with you is often the last intense experience with the organisation that people will remember the most.

  4. People in emotional and grief processes want two things: attention for the loss and support to build a new future. They want you to be 'Caring': showing empathy, being able to listen to their anger, sadness and helplessness. They also need your 'Daring'. They hope you invite and challenge them to take control of their future and build it step by step. You will find out more about how best to tune in to your people and what can get in the way of that in the workshop.

  5. Take care of your own emotions and don't trivialise them. You yourself are often part of the reorganisation; you too have questions about your future. Regularly reflect on how you are actually doing, what worries you have. Find out who you can go to with this and take them seriously. Consider the metaphor of the plane: “Parents: put on your own mask first, then those of your children”. Caring for others starts with good self-care!

Want to learn more?

Are you curious about how you, as a manager or professional, can make (even more) of a difference in these emotional processes? Do you want to consciously choose quality, responsible restructuring in your organisation? Want to know more about those emotional processes and what helps people move forward in them? Then take a look at “Transition management” on my website or contact me for a tailor-made offer!


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