Managing a team that's suffered cutbacks? Here's how to boost morale

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Welcome to Consult a Coach, our regular careers clinic for Bazaar readers. Send us your work dilemma, and we’ll ask our career agony aunt – the industry professional, executive coach and motivational speaker Jo Glynn-Smith – to answer it.

Here, Jo advises a reader on how to boost office morale after a restructuring.

Explore the Consult a Coach archive, full of careers-based advice. Got a question you'd like answered? Email us at consultacoach@harpersbazaar.co.uk

Dear Jo,

I work on the senior leadership team in my company, and we have recently undergone a huge restructuring. This has meant a lot of redundancies and, understandably, this was a big blow to morale. The mood at work is very flat and low; people are quite shaken up. I know that I need to do something to revive everyone and basically cheer employees up, but I’m not sure how to go about it. What do you suggest?

Yours,

Nnenna, 47


Jo says...

Dear Nnenna,

Thanks for writing in, as you are undoubtedly not alone in this issue. In a world of perpetual uncertainty, businesses are having to be more agile than ever in order to survive, – all too often, restructuring plays an unfortunate role in this. It’s completely understandable that after a wave of redundancies, the people who are left behind will experience a whole range of emotions, from fear to loss, frustration and anger. There can also be some survivor’s guilt, which is harder to spot. These feelings will inevitably last for a while as people readjust to the loss of their colleagues (and inevitably take on more work to compensate). However, they will adapt to the new structure and eventually move on. Rest assured, the dust will settle – but let’s look at what you can do for now.

One of the contributors to the collective low mood you are now experiencing is most likely to be fear, so clear communication and strong leadership must be a priority. First, you need to acknowledge and validate your team’s feelings. Insincere positivity and the old-school ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude are not going to wash with your employees of younger generations, so adopt an empathic lens, while always remaining professional.

Second, you need to quickly explain the new strategy for the business and how each role now functions. People are motivated by clear purpose, so make sure you explain the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ in no uncertain terms, so that they can visualise the future rather than focus on the past.

Finally, it's likely that during the redundancy process you were legally bound to keep things strictly confidential – which is understandable – and I’m sure your company did everything it could so as not to rouse suspicion. However, people are more intuitive than you realise and may have sensed problems for a while, which lends itself to rumours and whispers – which do nothing to build trust and loyalty. Now that the news is out there, try to be as transparent as possible and invite those you manage to come to you with any questions they may have. Inevitably, there may be information that you can’t share, but hiding away in your office or at home is not the answer. Presence is key, so if you have an office, try going in more than usual to show that you are there and ready to support everyone.

Good luck!

jo glynn smith
Courtesy of Jo Glynn-Smith

Jo Glynn-Smith is a transformation coach, speaker and personal-brand expert from London who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses to help maximise their team or individual potential. Before becoming a coach, she spent most of her career in the fashion industry working at the highest level with some of the biggest global brands. You can follow Jo for more coaching tips and advice on Instagram (@jojoglynnsmith) or visit her website, joglynnsmith.com.


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