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Leading Through Downsizing

In more than one case, employees thanked me for being honest with them. Even when they were the ones that were laid off.

2. Stay in the game. Do not withdraw. As layoffs became more and more frequent, I felt myself drawn to pull away from the people I had grown so close to over the years. The fact that I might be facing them in HR weeks later with bad news left me awake many nights. But, I hung in there knowing that I wouldn’t want to be stressed out by my boss withdrawing from me. In many ways, we became a stronger team, tackling the situation together. They knew that I would do whatever I could to keep them in their positions, and that was all that I could give them at that moment. Surprisingly, it was enough.

3. Pray for wisdom and grace. The wisdom to make the right choices, the grace to handle people with care. No one in a position of leadership will ever make all of the right decisions. I made mistakes during rounds of layoffs. Some I regret to this very day. But, I found that praying for direction allowed me to make better choices than the ones I tried to make on my own. Praying for grace allowed me to show the people that I was letting go how difficult it was for me. That mattered to them.

4. Pray for them individually. God has a plan for everyone. As difficult as it is to be the one with another person’s future in your hands, sometimes you are part of the plan. If you are careful to follow His direction as much as you are allowed, you may find that people go on to better situations. This was true for several of my employees.

5. Ask for prayer from friends. One of the most wonderful people that I had to let go during a layoff came to me afterward worried more about me than himself. Downsizing takes its toll on leaders. You can not go through it alone. You need support from everyone you can find. Especially support through prayer. Ask other Christians to pray for you during this time. It is a heavy burden that has the ability to overwhelm rapidly. Make sure that others have you in their thoughts and prayers.

If there ever was a time and place for servant leadership, these are the times. Take care of your people as much as you can, while you can. Pray for direction and wisdom. Pray for them and their families. And always remember that as Christians we can say with confidence:

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

Truly, this is a moment in time of your life. This is not forever. Do the best that you can in your given circumstances and look to Christ for support, clarity and direction. You will be blessed in the midst of turmoil, even as you bless others.

Editor's Note: For more information on ministry layoffs, click here.

May29, 2009 at 10:43 AM

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