April 02, 2020

Compassionate lay-offs: Supporting your people through challenging times

As the economy grapples with a global health crisis, companies of all sizes are forced to make the painful decision to lay off valued members of their teams. This difficult reality that people leaders are facing requires an embrace of humanity and empathy at an unprecedented level.

This unique crisis renders the already devastating proposition of lay-offs even more challenging because many conventional best practices won’t work. For example, the standard wisdom that conversations as personal as lay-offs should happen face-to-face goes out the window when health risks and legal restrictions have everyone working from home. Widely-provided outplacement resources designed to help those laid off find new employment are unable to fulfill such promises when entire industries have put hiring on pause. In this new landscape, the choices are more hamstrung than usual.

Bravely’s approach to helping people navigate uncertainty also serves as a mindset for company leaders to embrace.

Our Pros coach individuals in these moments to an understanding of what they can and can’t control, and work to empower them to wield their influence to make the best of their circumstances.

For company leaders and executives, even more than usual, is out of control. Beyond the baseline hope and expectation that companies of all sizes make every effort possible to give laid-off workers the financial support they need, we recognize that, in these dire circumstances, there are things money doesn’t solve.

Companies can play a role in meeting peoples’ needs for strengths-based emotional support, stress management, and resilience coaching to get through a difficult period.

It’s worth noting why a lay-off is so difficult beyond the threat to financial security. Work is deeply and inextricably part of people’s lives, and that’s only become more obvious as we’ve turned to working from home. It’s a means to accessing our most basic needs, and it’s part of many of our core identities. Losing a job is like losing part of oneself, and it’s often grieved as such. The rejection and fear that come with losing a job are disorienting; it throws a person off their emotional balance and shakes their sense of self.

There are ways to mitigate the devastation (private, one-on-one conversations, clear communication about why the lay-off is absolutely necessary, and a compassionate approach that acknowledges the challenges the employee will face), but even with these measures taken, employees will need access to meaningful emotional support. We can’t take for granted that everyone has a support network in place — especially now, when so many of us are isolated from each other by self-quarantine restrictions.

By doing the right thing for the people you’re laying off, you’re also meeting the needs and expectations of your remaining team members. Employees will pay more attention than ever to how their colleagues are treated in lay-offs, and providing meaningful support to laid-off employees is essential to protecting your company’s culture right now. These moments test the company values we plaster on the wall, and now is an opportunity to show your people they matter as more than just wallpaper.

These moments test the company values we plaster on the wall, and now is an opportunity to show your people they matter as more than just wallpaper.

From our experience serving people through difficult times, we know Bravely coaching provides the kind of emotional support employees need in this moment. It’s designed for the moments that matter in our lives at work, and being laid off is undeniably one of those moments—possibly the hardest of them. A person in that situation needs a safe source of comfort and help in developing the skills and mindset not just to survive, but to thrive and move forward. That’s where coaching can be powerful — by helping an employee identify their strengths in the face of adversity, it equips them to build resilience, understand their own needs, and, most importantly, clear a path forward.

This is why we’ve re-packaged Bravely’s offering to allow companies to provide laid-off employees with a resource that makes sense in the current climate. In the most compassionate lay-offs, a company is giving employees everything they can to empower them to move forward.

Learn more about how Bravely is doing that, and get in touch, here.

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