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Rebuilding Trust After Layoffs
By Michelle Johnston

December 12, 2011


CPP’s Michelle Johnston discusses how leaders can build trust after layoffs in Chief Learning Officer.

Layoffs can create a breach in trust, regardless of the strength of management/employee relationships. No matter how fastidiously leaders follow best practices, how clearly they communicate, how much regret they feel or show, it’s impossible to completely avoid workers’ primal “am I next?” reaction. These trust issues commonly manifest themselves in inefficiency, mistakes, missed deadlines and other behaviors atypical for a team.

For leaders, rebuilding trust begins with understanding how others perceive personal behavior, and how that behavior impacts the organization. Tools can help. Using constructs based on the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation model, for example, leaders may find a common perceptual gap between the impressions leaders intend to give their staff, and the impressions the staff members perceive. For a team observing actions through the lens of downsizing, unintended impressions can be particularly damaging.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the following improvements can help ensure actions leave the intended impressions and create a basis for trust:

  • Communicate thoroughly
  • Be present, and be inclusive
  • Engage employees on a personal level

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