How to Help Employees Overcome Fear of Layoffs


Many technology companies, including Twitter, and others that had gained business during the pandemic, like Peloton, have faced layoffs recently. These stories, along with those about historically high inflation and absurd cost of living indicators, make big headlines. Already, the world is experiencing a sense of uncertainty. 

As a result, employees are facing serious financial anxiety. Many may be concerned about the possibility of layoffs. This kind of tension puts Human Resources in a tough position. HR is both the group that would be conducting layoffs, but it is also the place people turn to for solutions if they are facing stress and anxiety. 

Assuming the organization is not on the brink of layoffs, there are some ways HR can influence employees and help them overcome such fears:

Provide Perspective

The headlines make the economic forecast seem absolutely gloomy. Certainly, a recession may be looming. However, this is an interesting economy. For the time being, the jobs market remains strong, and the U.S. GDP grew 2.6% in the third quarter of 2022. These are not traditional marks of a recession. 

READ: Crying CEO and 4 Other Layoffs Mistakes

While layoffs at companies like Twitter, which may have let go of up to half of its staff, are hot gossip, they are not the norm. About 159 million people are employed in the United States, and there were only 1.3 million layoffs in October, which is historically low and comes to a rate of 0.9%, according to CNBC

Sharing the facts with employees, especially if the organization is thriving, can help. Still, reality does not always make the heart rest easy. This cannot be the only approach to calming anxiety. The fact is that people are feeling the pain at the grocery store and gas station. 

Talk Honestly

Leaders in the new normal are not just empathetic. They are transparent. They talk about upcoming projects and the vision they have for the company. In the age of social media and 24/7 news cycles, no one can hide anything. So, leaders must be honest about what’s happening, even in bad times. 

READ: 10 Strategies for Dealing with Layoffs

Granted, for legal reasons, organizations are often mum when layoffs are looming. However, being honest about what’s happening on the ground the rest of the time can help people get an idea of where they stand. It’s also a way to appeal to younger workers.

Eric Archambeau, an engineer, entrepreneur and author of Costing the Earth, recommend “radical transparency” to gain the trust of Gen Z employees and customers, according to Forbes. The point is that repeated honesty and avoiding guarded conversation can help build a culture of trust. 

READ: 7 Alternatives to Layoffs

Be There in Good Times and Bad 

Sometimes, layoffs are unavoidable. When they happen, realize that leaders must remain transparent. They should explain why they had to let go of employees. Then, they must extend an invitation for questions and continue to provide honest answers. 

Finally, they must demonstrate that they understand people are anxious and show empathy. First, HR can offer a helping hand in the form of resources to those who are laid off and now looking for new opportunities.

At the height of the booming labor market and Great Resignation era, many at the HR Exchange Network Recruiting and Talent Acquisition online event suggested helping those who did not make the cut for jobs at their organization with opportunities elsewhere. This can be true for those who are laid off as well. 

In addition, HR and management should try to lift morale of those who are still with the company but may be reeling from the layoffs of their colleagues. Show compassion, remain open to communication, and provide motivation in the form of praise when earned. 

Photo by Yan Krukov for Pexels

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