In my post from the month of January called "The drama behind the word restructuring", I virtually agreed with the readers not to say "restructuring" when referring to a massive firing of people from a company. This is why I will call it for what it is. People get fired from companies for various reasons. One of the reasons is the rebuilding of a department after financial losses, or a structural change that sometimes results in employees not adapting well to change, performing less, and therefore getting fired (even though in this last case, people can also decide to leave).
When there has been an action like this, and when it involves firing several people, the ones who are left behind and are not touched by the events, inevitably feel fear and inexplicable guilt.
The fear comes from the fact that, if the company has not made any clear statement about the future structure, the employees who are left out ask themselves "Am I going to be next?"- and this creates doubt, frustration and triggers additional anxiety. The guilt comes from the fact that, if the fired people had a notice and they stay around like walking ghosts, they feel unconscious resentment towards the other colleagues who still have fixed job. And these colleagues feel it too, and blame themselves for being still "happily" employed. It is all a silent process that only triggers unhappiness additional loneliness.
It is not the rule, but generally after such a massive rebuilding, HR is busy contacting the unemployment insurance, taking care of contracts, answering questions about notice (not to mention the psychological stress they suffer for giving bad news to employees, life colleagues probably, and people who are older than they are and might struggle finding another job) and basically justifying the massive action. The presence of an external consultant, such as a coach, might be of great help. It can be organized by management or team leaders.
External consultant and coaches can provide emotional support. One of the characteristics of coaching is that it focuses on asking questions to the client that aim to build goals, and are more solution-oriented than problems-oriented. The structure could be the following:
- Workshop for the employees, led by coaches, about change and how to deal with it. The employees should go without their superiors if possible, in order to feel free to speak.
- There can be a moderation group on topics such as guilt, how to deal with anxiety and fear after a colleague is gone.
- One to one coaching for the people who are fired and have a longer notice than others. It can help during the emotional struggle and in recognizing the next moves for a new job (I am amazed by the effectiveness of outplacement agencies, a very common thing in Switzerland).
Of course, if the problem reaches a much worse state, and people get depressed or extremely burn-out and psychological help is needed, then coaching might not be the tool for that, but certainly it is for recognizing these kinds of things, catching them early and prevent further problems.
Managers of large companies: give coaching a chance! For your employees. And maybe also for you!