4 manager tips to navigate through uncertainty, layoffs

Leading through uncertainty can put managers in a tricky spot, and that's exactly what's unfolding in the current labor market, as many employees worry about the potential for layoffs. 

In a recent survey of more than 35,000 employees in the U.S., more than a quarter of respondents indicated they feared being laid off. The survey, led by staffing firm Randstad, was cited in an April 5 report from The Wall Street Journal, which compiled advice from leadership coaches and bosses. 

Four tips from the report: 

1. Don't offer your take on pending job cuts. Why? Because oftentimes, managers are just as uncertain as employees. Instead, be transparent about what is known and unknown. Leaders should tell staff: "There are changes coming down the pike, but they are still being formed," Jay Sullivan, former managing partner of Exec-Comm, a communications coaching firm, told the Journal. 

2. Acknowledge staff concerns. Surveys have shown bosses have a large effect on employees' mental health, so they should take care to acknowledge an anxious environment. Managers should recognize that uncertainty can affect focus, according to advice from Heidi Brooks, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Conn. She suggests addressing this by saying, "I hope that we can all do our best to support ourselves and each other through a tough time and be as productive and connected as possible." 

3. Keep staff informed — not just about layoffs. Outside of layoffs, employees have expressed concern surrounding the banking system's recent challenges. In light of that, leaders suggest keeping staff informed about the company's financial situation. 

4. Invite questions often. Create a range of spaces for staff to ask questions. Aside from time during meetings, create anonymous channels and invite employees to submit queries. Even if there isn't always new information to report, regular check-ins help ensure that everyone understands why certain choices are made. 

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