How to help your employees when positions are being deleted, but they’re not being let go

By: Dr. Dawn-Marie Turner

Not losing the paycheque but losing the job.

Twenty years ago I used to like Diet Coke. I drank it almost like water. I don’t drink it anymore, but that’s another story.

When I went to a restaurant and asked for a Diet Coke and they served me Diet Pepsi I would grumble. To them, it was the same. Both were dark caramel coloured fizzy drinks with that weird aftertaste that somehow tasted good. But to me, they were very different. Diet Pepsi was not Diet Coke.

Something similar occurs during a restructuring. You restructure your organization, pleased that you can meet your business objectives, and no one will lose their job. You announce this to your employees. Initially, employees are enthusiastic, buy-in, but as the restructuring begins you feel the sting of an unexpected backlash. The employees are reacting as if they are losing their jobs.

What happened? They did lose their job. They didn’t lose their paycheque and employment. Like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are not the same, your employees’ job and their employment or paycheque are not the same.

Our job is much broader than just our employment. It encompasses our roles and responsibilities, but more importantly, it includes our perceived competencies, beliefs about our value and contribution, and our self-esteem. That’s why, although you announced no one will lose their job the employees respond as if they are. Because to them, they are.

For example to the nurse who has spent the past 15 years in labor and delivery and suddenly finds herself bumped into a medical/surgical unit, it feels like she has lost her job.

Help employees build personal change readiness.

I recommend bringing the Employee Program to your organization. This program is geared towards employees who are experiencing change but are not making decisions about it.

But, what can you do every day to help your employees move through the change with less discomfort?

First, recognize the difference.

Second, shift your language. In one organization instead of saying no one would lose their job, the CEO reassured employees their employment was secure, but their jobs would change.

Third, give helpful information first. We all think it’s the important information that people need to hear and you’re not wrong, but unless employees hear what is helpful first they won’t hear the important information.

This post was originally published as a monthly minute to members of the ThinkTransition Community

Helping you turn change from a liability to an asset

This blog post was originally published as: How to help your employees with restructuring

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