One of the primary tenets of management is caring about your people. As leaders, we care about their professional growth and, to a mutually-comfortable extent, about their personal life. We know about their families, their hobbies, their difficulties and their triumphs. Over time, most of us get to know our folks pretty well and grow to enjoy their company and them.
It's all pretty idyllic until you have to lay that person off.
Then your genuine interest in that person is replaced by guilt and sadness. You know about the bills they have to pay and the mouths they have to feed and you feel pretty horrible about the whole thing. And when the dust settles and things start returning to "normal," you're left with the remainder of your staff, to whom you're still emotionally invested - or are you?
Laying off employees can make many managers gun-shy when it comes to emotionally reinvesting in their staff. It's not uncommon to want to keep the remaining folks at arm's length to avoid being affected by future layoffs as you were with past staffers. However Lynda Ford, president of The Ford Group, a consulting firm specializing in human resources, training and organizational development, says you need to get back on the horse that threw you.
"You're trying to forge more than a work relationships with them, you're trying to forge a better relationship with them.
The good managers invest time in doing that and that really can be tough," she says.
And it's also part of life, she reminds us. Whether it be a layoff at work or an empty nest at home, "people in all aspects of our lives come and go, some voluntarily and some not-so-voluntarily," she says. "You have to realize it's a natural part of the job you do and it doesn't mean you did badly."
In fact, Ford says, post-layoff feelings mean you cared about your employees, which means you did your job - and you did it well. "Pat yourself on the back a little," she says. "Managers are busy patting other people on the back if they're doing their jobs right, pat yourself on the back, reward yourself."
Ford says you should do something nice for yourself, then promptly continue the relationships you have with remaining staffers.