How Do You Feel About Redundancies? Who cares – you’re just the leader.

Posted on 06 Jul

As leaders of a business – big or small – we need to focus on the well-being of our people, while ensuring that we’re making the ‘tough decisions’. Of course, well-being is important – but not just for our people, but also for the leaders who are making the tough decisions.

We have seen over the years as Career Transition Management and Outplacement Consultants, when it comes to redundancies, leaders are often expected to make the decision and then just forge ahead without themselves receiving or expecting support.

In these situations, it seems that fewer businesses are taking the time to encourage leaders to:

  • Adhere to decision making that is consistent with both their personal and organisational values
  • Implement a redundancy and/or organisational restructure process that is cognisant of people and culture
  • Focus on their own well-being and self-care during the process
  • Access specific support through structured peer networks, professional Coaches or even EAP support
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced outlook while making tough decisions involved in a redundancy and/or organisational restructure process.

Why doesn’t the above happen more often than not? As a leader, you’re employed to make these decisions. It is inherently in your roles and responsibilities to be the final decision maker on big calls like redundancies. Because of this understanding, there is an outlook that leaders should “just get on with it”, “it’s what they’re paid to do”.

But having worked on both large-scale redundancy programs and complex individual ‘one-off’ redundancies, we know that many leaders agonise over these decisions far more than many would expect. We’ve seen even the most seasoned leaders report sleepless nights, high anxiety, and strong feelings of guilt or remorse over these decisions.

When it comes to the day of the redundancy announcements, this anxiety can get the better of some. Often trying to pass the buck to others and losing business logic altogether.

So why is this a problem?

For leaders who experience this, it can often impede their ability to successfully make their employees redundant. If they’re passing blame to others, or not justifying and explaining the honest reasons behind making their decision it can significantly impact the person that is being let go, as well as the staff still left employed. A range of extrinsic and intrinsic issues can arise if this is the case – Let’s have a look at these and what they might mean.

  1. How your people see the business

The people in your business want to feel that this is an important decision that has been well thought out. It’s not a decision you take lightly. They want to feel that you respect them and understand that these decisions impact upon their personal lives and careers.

Consider decision making with empathy – it doesn’t mean you don’t make the tough decision – it just means you consider how best to minimise the impact upon your people. This doesn’t automatically mean that the people will thank you, but they will certainly respect you.

  1. How other people see the business

People external to the business can also have a perspective that is important. Stakeholders and prospective employees can formulate opinions about how companies handle the tough times as well the good times. The rise of social media has heightened the importance of this, with platforms like Glassdoor – which allow past employees leave a review about what it’s like to work at the business.

Work with your peers, colleagues (HR), coaches and confidents who can help you make the decision and implement them with a high degree of consideration for both your people and your stakeholders. Sharing your thinking and talking through the best process allows you to keep your focus while ensuring you stay true to your values.

  1. How it shapes the culture

Culture is important for productivity, employee happiness and work-life balance. If you’re trying to build a high-performance culture, diminishing the redundancy to one of pure logic and ‘making the tough decision’ can lead to a process that gives little consideration to the culture and the individuals that make this.

For example – thinking ‘just tell everyone and move them on today’ may not be best practice for your business and certainly destroys the ‘trust’ employees might have in the business.

Considering how the future culture will be impacted by your process and empathy is important. There’s every likelihood much of the future culture of the business will be structured around your values. Think about what these are and how you can stay true to these while ensuring the business complies with best practice.

When business leaders make decisions that are both fair for the business, and in-line with their own personal values, the team as a whole trust and respect them. The culture can thrive and flourish when there is trust from the bottom up.

  1. How you feel about yourself and the business you are trying to build

The best way to manage your own well-being, both psychologically and physically, when making tough decisions is to factor in your people, work with a support team or network, and stay true to your values. Doing all of these will ensure that you’re not riddled with anxiety and will also ensure you’re treating your people with respect.


If you’re feeling the weight of decision making, or are wanting advice on how to roll out a redundancy program, contact us today. 

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