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Keeping teams together during downsizing
Q: There is talk of downsizing at our facility. How do I keep my team together when some of the members may be about to lose their jobs?
A: Cynthia Palka responds:
Downsizing is always a challenging time for employees. It is difficult to focus on doing your job when you are not sure if you will still have a job to go to! I would start by validating how your team members are feeling, simply letting them know that it is "perfectly understandable" that they are nervous, anxious and fearful right now. They will get some comfort just from hearing that you are aware of how they are feeling. Calling attention to their feelings acknowledges that these feelings are real and normal for them to be having in these circumstances. Edgar Schein, a guru in change management and organization culture, acknowledges these emotions as "survival anxiety," and warns that such strong emotions can be paralyzing for people. Validation should help them work through these feelings so they can move forward and focus on doing their work. Some people, however, may need more time than others to work through their anxiety, so it is important to recognize that fact and be supportive. For more information on survival anxiety, see Schein's book, "The Corporate Culture Survival Guide."