Express empathy during restructuring

Businesses, all over the world, are experiencing severe pressures in one form or another. The seeming normality of our world has changed — disruption, international security issues, the COVID pandemic, global warming, the expectation to ‘go green’, pollution issues, inflation, etc., mark the new environment in which production must take place and services must be rendered. Some businesses are even fighting to stay alive amidst this turmoil.

Restructuring business to meet the many challenges of the 21 stCentury is a logical and necessary step to mitigate risk and position the business for sustainable future successes. This restructuring, however, is not always executed with the long-term effects on employees and their families in mind. Far too often, the aftermath of restructuring, downsizing and even relocating is characterised by a bloodbath of broken lives and very angry communities.

The people factor in far-reaching change should not be minimised or overlooked — meaningful expressions of care and good doses of empathy must be offered by those in leadership positions to staff in order to:

  • Uphold the company values
  • Retain brand integrity and reputation
  • Offer alternatives and support to those who are being affected by the change
  • Engender new growth in employees

More specifically, business leadership, whilst not only guarding the reputation of the company, should care for affected employees in the following ways:

  1. Meaningful dialogue — leaders need to listen to the concerns of employees and support them in their emotional pain. Retrenchment, and even internal redeployment, causes emotional disruption and extreme anxiety for most people. The ensuing fear must be debriefed, and psychological assistance/counselling should be offered.
  2. Appropriate training — courses should be offered to shore up the minds and hearts of affected employees. These interventions must focus on both the emotional/mental wellbeing (self-esteem, self-value, optimism, resilience, etc.) and planning/decision-making ability (looking for alternatives, new options, personal purpose, etc.) of affected employees.
  3. Purposeful coaching — if employees are to be redeployed, a coach might be necessary to enable a faster transition into a new role. As coaches typically see the business needs more objectively, staff will more likely be able to process changes more swiftly and achieve higher levels of productivity more easily.
  4. Relevant information — for employees who will need to relocate to different business premises, perhaps even to a new city, company leadership should provide ample information on the following:
  • Why this location has been chosen (e.g., for supply chain purposes, to be closer to our clients, cheaper factory accommodation, etc.)
  • The benefits of moving to this venue for employees (what the city offers)
  • Suburbs that are optimal to live in
  • Education possibilities for children at all levels and costs
  • Commuter routes and costs
  • Shopping possibilities
  • Sights to see
  • Safety and security
  • Relocation policy — how the company is going to help you, etc.

Company leadership should express empathy and meaningful care to employees affected by restructuring exercises. Authentic communication and honesty go a long way towards connecting with the feelings that affected employees experience during times of radical change.

Free To Grow offers the workshop, New Growth, to assist employees with coping with far-reaching change in their respective work experiences — for more information, please contact me on jonathan@ftgsa.co.za

Originally published at https://www.stretchforgrowth.com on April 17, 2022.

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Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.

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Jonathan Mills

Jonathan Mills

Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.

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