Leading Through Downsizing

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I’m an old pro at downsizing. It’s true.

While the rest of the world has watched recent events with anxiety at the possibility of losing their job, I’m quite familiar with this life of uncertainty. A veteran of the textile industry for 15 years, I’ve spent the last five watching the companies I’ve worked and cared for slowly shrink into oblivion. It’s been difficult. It’s been unpleasant. But, it’s been a learning experience like no other.

As one of the few Christians in my workplace, I often found I took a special outlook on the situation that kept me calm and gave me the ability to calm the storm in others. Not that I didn’t get angry. I did. Not that I didn’t get unnerved. I did. But at the end of each round of layoffs or downsizing (and there were many), I was able to step away from the situation with a larger view than most. Even when I fell into the crosshairs, at the core I knew that I would be okay.

I found that being a leader during times such as these were a very different challenge than leadership needed during other times. The type of leadership that leans on Christ more than ever before. The kind of leadership that presents the opportunity to show the love of Christ to people who are desperately searching for something to hold onto. The kind of leadership for which you will one day be proud.

Should you fall into a situation of downsizing, and you are in a position of leadership, the following strategies can help not only you, but the people in your charge:

1. Be Honest and forthright. When people are considering the possibility of losing their jobs, they need someone who is not only honest with them, but is straightforward. Often, within the same hour of management being notified of a pending layoff, the people that worked for me became aware of it as well. Call it the rumor mill, an overzealous administrative assistant, or whatever you like. The fact was and is: they already know.

I found that admitting to the problem at hand gave people a sense of almost relief. I acknowledged that their fears were real, and they were much more able to deal with them. Keeping in mind that some things told to me were confidential, I only told them what I felt I was allowed to. Often, simply admitting there was a problem was the best thing I could do to quell their anxiety.

May29, 2009 at 10:43 AM

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