How to Help Managers Support Employees Through a RIF

  • Author: Meghan Stewart

Managers can make or break the employee experience before, during, and after a reduction in force (RIF). Though not all managers have the experience or know-how to guide their employees through a RIF effectively, you can provide them with the resources and tools they need to be successful.

4 Ways to Help Managers Help Their Employees During RIFs

RIFs have been in full swing lately and show no signs of stopping. According to a global Randstad RiseSmart study, 96% of organizations experienced a reduction in force in 2023, and 92% will likely downsize to some degree in 2024.

Given the prevalence of layoffs and their potential to instill worry, fear, and disengagement in employees, it’s critical to ensure managers are equipped to support remaining employees and help them stay connected to their work and team.

Here are some ways to give managers the help they need:

1. Keep Them in the Know

Our latest research revealed that the less connected employees feel at work, the more they worry about layoffs. Thankfully, managers can alleviate much of the worry by encouraging meaningful connections within the team. To promote healthy employee connections, keep managers informed of RIF developments and encourage them to have honest discussions with their team in one-on-one and team meetings. It’s also essential to empower managers to engage their team in bonding activities, whether in-person or remote. These activities promote belonging and help to limit feelings of isolation.

2. Boost Their Emotional Intelligence

Managers can best support their employees when they understand how employees feel during layoffs. Of course, frequent communication and check-ins are helpful, but managers can also support their employees by being more attuned to their emotions. Emotional intelligence training for managers can help them grow their listening and empathy skills so they can recognize and address a range of employee emotions, including anxiety, stress, and fear of future layoffs.

3. Mentor Them

Managers can become more effective in supporting their employees through RIFs when they have opportunities to hear from peers and experienced managers who’ve been there. Connecting with other leaders allows managers to learn effective strategies for supporting their employees and keeping them engaged during times of uncertainty. These connections can also help alleviate some of the stress managers feel during layoffs, especially if they were involved in delivering layoff messages or lost members of their team.

4. Help Them Take Care of Themselves

Managers are employees too, and they can take better care of the employees on their team when they’re also addressing their own needs. RIFs can be as hard on managers as on employees, so it’s essential to remind managers of company resources such as mental health benefits, mentorship opportunities, and leadership training. These support mechanisms improve managers’ overall leadership competency and address the unique challenges they encounter during tough times.

A Better RIF Experience For Managers and Employees 

Though a reduction in force may be inevitable at some point in every organization’s life cycle, it doesn’t have to result in anxious and disconnected employees. By increasing opportunities for managers to connect with their team, other leaders, and company resources, managers can help employees navigate RIFs more effectively. 

For more insights, read our latest research report, The Imbalanced State of Employee Connections at Work, and the addendum report on the impact of RIFs on employee connection.

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