Layoff Aftermath Requires Empathy and Ruthless Compassion to Rebuild Trust

We’re hearing from our clients about how challenging the current economic climate is. Many of them are facing the difficult decision to lay off employees for human capital management. While the term “ruthless compassion” might seem contradictory at first glance, we believe it embodies an approach that balances the harsh realities of business decisions with empathy and respect for those affected. “Ruthless compassion” is crucial for maintaining trust, morale, and integrity during tough times. This approach is key to ensure survivors feel safe who often do not feel so. We’ve witnessed on numerous occasions that leaders assumed people who were not affected by a layoff would be happy to have a job and therefore be more engaged. However, this was not the case and is supported by Harvard Business Review, showing 70% of employees who survive layoffs reported a decline in productivity and a significant increase in workload and stress levels. This phenomenon is referred to as “survivor syndrome.” This statistic shows the opportunity for leaders to make a big difference in helping retained employees deal with survivor guilt and build or regain survivor trust. Our People and Change Management consulting services help equip leaders and teams with the leadership skills and mindset to navigate uncertainty and build resilient businesses with high employee engagement.  

Here’s how we help companies develop their leaders to be ruthlessly compassionate during layoffs: 

  • Accelerated Learning Labs: These labs provide experiential learning on the principles and practices of enabling change within the organization. They focus on effectively meeting the needs of survivors, thereby building trusted relationships after a change has occurred. Learn how we can support you on this 

  • Effective Communication Strategies: We teach your leaders how to communicate transparently and empathetically, ensuring that all messaging is clear, consistent, and compassionate. 

  • Post-Layoff Engagement: We help your leaders develop strategies to re-engage and support remaining employees, boosting morale and trust in the future of your company. 

  • Executive Coaching: We provide continuous support and coaching for leaders, helping them navigate the complexities of layoffs with compassion and integrity for optimal organizational development. 

In Summary 

It’s crucial to recognize and address the needs of your employees who remain after a layoff.  These employees will not only witness their colleagues losing their jobs but also grapple with their own emotions and uncertainties about their future within the organization. For human capital management to be effective, we firmly believe that leaders must demonstrate care by communicating openly about the situation and actively listening as employees navigate feelings of survivor guilt. By showing genuine concern and supporting your teams during these challenging events, leaders can rebuild employee trust and cultivate a positive, productive work environment as your company moves forward. 

At The Poirier Group, our significant experience and business consulting services span many industries. Our proven track record of delivering tangible and pragmatic sustainable results comes from a blend of analytical rigour and creative problem-solving, empowering our clients to unlock their full potential.

Learn more about our People & Change services. 

Karen Calder


Karen Calder is a senior Organizational Development & Transformational Change Leader, Talent Developer and High-Performance Coach with extensive experience in Talent Management, Learning Design, Leadership Development, Organizational Change and Culture Transformation. Karen solves complex problems, creates simple solutions and delivers results. She is an influential thought leader advocating for the advancement of women, inclusion and collaborative work environments.

As an expert in learning, performance and change, Karen has successfully worked with companies and individuals in a broad range of fields, including retail, banking and financial services, manufacturing and consulting. Karen demonstrates a real passion and dedication to continuous learning and personal growth. Karen’s mission is to help individuals, teams and organizations “adapt, perform and thrive” in a world of constant change and achieve extraordinary results. She also works with executive teams to develop more inclusive and high-performance cultures.