Low morale, broken trust: How companies can help their employees during layoffs


Helping employees with layoffs

New joiners, higher-paid staff, non-revenue generating roles and business support functions may be more at risk, observers say.

Mr Paul Heng, founder of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said even those who bring in the most business may be at risk.

He gave the example of a top revenue-generating sales professional who went on an incentive trip to a European country, only to be told her job would be made redundant when she came home.

Employees can consider proposing a pay cut as an alternative to terminating employment, said Mr Heng.

To those facing layoff anxiety, his advice is to not to overthink and to focus on what they can control. “So when the writing is on the wall, for example, being excluded from meetings that you are usually required to attend – brace yourself, get your resume ready, and continue networking.”

Mr Faiz Modak, associate director of tech and transformation at Robert Walters Singapore, said firms like Google and Amazon had ramped up their teams to work on new projects after the Covid-19 pandemic and are now returning to their core specialisations.

At the same time, they are investing in new tech like AI and cloud computing to drive profitability.

He advised new employees to speak to senior leaders about the firm’s strategy to tackle the current situation and to evaluate their own role in the organisation.

Suicide prevention centre Samaritans of Singapore said 13 per cent of the calls to its hotline in 2022 were employment-related and mostly from those aged 20 to 39. Samaritans got a total of 53,692 calls in the last financial year ending in March 2022.

Mr Ong Jie Li, a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, said those who have stressful family responsibilities, unstable finances and weaker support systems tend to be harder hit when they are laid off.

Another vulnerable group are those on employment permits who are providing for their family, as they have to relocate if they are unable to find another job, said Ms Kiki Mohan, a psychotherapist at Alliance Counselling. The centre holds free monthly online support group sessions for people experiencing job loss.

She added that layoffs can also be stressful for those executing them who may experience dissonance, anxiety and guilt, as well as those witnessing the layoffs who may face vicarious trauma and survivor guilt.

She said employers can help by providing employee assistance programmes, and scheduling layoffs on meeting-free days.

The founder of Insights Bridge Consultancy, Dr Jean Liu, said people who have been laid off report that their sense of identity and security are affected.

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