Whether your business recently merged with another or dwindling sales can't support your current staff, there sometimes comes a point when internal layoffs are necessary. And while that can certainly be hard on you as a manager, it can be an even more challenging period for your staff.

Think about it: How are your employees supposed to come to work every day knowing that they might easily see one of their colleagues go, or get the axe themselves? It's a tough situation, but here's how you can keep your workers motivated during that transition.

Woman with sad expression holding a box of office supplies


1. Be honest about what's going on

As a manager, you may not be privy to the list of people getting laid off during a given round, but chances are, you have some sort of intel on what's going on. It therefore pays to be as open as possible with your team during a period of downsizing so that your workers come to trust you and take your words to heart. Explain that while you can't share certain details, you're willing to disclose as much information as possible (such as the timing of upcoming layoffs) to help your employees prepare and cope. It also never hurts to remind your team that much of the situation is out of your hands, assuming that's the case. This way, your workers won't take it out on you by slacking.

2. Offer short-term incentives when possible

Let's face it: When workers at your company are being let go left and right, your team members are likely to operate under the assumption that they could be next. And that might hurt their productivity in a huge way. To help them keep going, offer small perks as a reward for good performance. For example, you might order in lunch for your team one day as a thank you for completing a specific project. Or, you might dismiss your workers extra-early for a holiday weekend. There are plenty of small gestures you can make that won't hurt your team's output or break the bank, and they could go a long way toward keeping folks motivated.

3. Focus on the positive

Maybe the overall situation at work is fairly bleak, what with employees continuing to drop like flies. But as a manager, your job is to help your team focus on the positive during an otherwise troubling period. This could mean reminding your workers that the technology they're developing is new and exciting, or that the skills they're developing by plugging away will help their careers in the long run. You may need to get a little creative, but if it helps your employees come to work every day, so be it.

4. Remind them that hard work might save their jobs

Sometimes, even the hardest-working employees wind up falling victim to layoffs. And while performance isn't always tied to job security, it's often a determining factor. Therefore, it never hurts to remind your employees, in a nice, non-threatening way, that the more results they produce, the greater their chances of getting to stay on board. Of course, you'll need to choose your wording carefully -- the last thing you want to do is imply that hard work alone will save someone's job. Rather, emphasize the fact that you'll fight for your team members to keep their positions, but the better a job they do, the easier a time you'll have making that case.

Managing a team during a period of downsizing is never easy, so remember to give yourself a break, too. With any luck, you and your employees will get through the tough times and come out stronger on a whole.