Communicate Cost-Cutting Measures with Care
Kate O’Neil Rauber, Vice President of Public Relations
Whether companies are thinning teams to avoid M&A duplication or right-sizing staff in order to regain financial footing, executives must communicate cost-cutting measures with care.
“Survivors,” or those who remain with a company after massive changes, tend to have three initial thoughts:
First, shock. They can’t believe it’s happening. They may even be worried about having lost a close work friend.
Next, survivor shock quickly shifts to me. As in: Am I next?
Finally, there’s workload. Meaning, how much more work will I have to do now that others are gone? Or, how will I get my current projects done without a critical member of the team?
Understanding the survivor mind frame, executives communicating tough change management messages should embrace the four “Cs”:
1. Compassion: Someone is either losing a job or getting more work — when they already feel overworked. Show compassion and appreciation for everyone impacted. Remember, you’re talking about someone’s livelihood.
2. Candor: The story behind why this change is being made must be crisp and paint a compelling business case. Fluff and spin have no place here. Remember, employees will be looking to executive leadership — you — for answers.
3. Clarity: Paint the vision for where the company is headed. The initial sting hurts. But, (most) survivors will get on board if they understand and believe your vision. Remember, jobs have been lost and workloads have ballooned. Overnight.
4. Confidence: Survivors need to believe you. They want to know that in your bones, you believe this change is the best thing for the company. Remember, confidence is not the same as arrogance; one attracts — the other detracts.
Cost-cutting measures should be communicated with care — whether it’s a right-sizing, restructuring, downsizing, or another corporate code word for layoffs. You can’t merge corporate cultures or right the financial ship without your survivors on board.
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