Anxiety in Scrabble Letters

Layoffs, Anxiety and Trust

In my regular online reading this weekend, I picked up on a couple of posts that both mentioned some things I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about recently.

The first was a piece from the BBC about the impact of anxiety on employees when there are layoffs, but the part I wanted to highlight was this:

As a result, many workers are feeling a sense of cognitive dissonance – both those laid off, and others like Kara, who live in fear of being axed next. Tavis explains that during Covid-19, they were told one thing – but now they’re experiencing something that discredits that narrative. “It’s making leadership seem inauthentic, and that’s understandably having an impact on employee trust in leadership,” she says.

The implication, of course, is that there were many managers and C-Suite executives who talked an excellent game about supporting employees and DE&I initiatives, flexibility, etc., who now are laying off employees despite the companies being profitable, using the threat of layoffs to demand less flexibility, ignore diversity, etc. It’s understandable for the trust to be broken when that happens, but I suspect most executives are unaware of how much that trust and the culture have been damaged. The link above may help give you an idea.

If not, maybe this quote will help, in an LA Times article that asks the question – Bosses say they care about mental health — can workers trust them?

“The vast majority of the corporations, the businesses that are saying, ‘Oh, we care, mental health is important,’ I just don’t believe it,” said Claudia Sahm, a 46-year-old former Federal Reserve economist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011 and advocates for healthy workplace environments. “Because until you actually put [in] the money and the resources and the training, it’s just words.”

Ultimately, this is what will define your culture and your employee engagement. Do your actions match your words? It’s not enough to say you care about mental health, diversity, or developing the people who work for you. You had better put something behind that. If you’ve had layoffs recently, don’t expect anyone to believe that you care about these things on your words alone. Those layoffs told everyone in the organization that they were expendable. They could be next, and the only thing that truly matters is how much they make for you. If you care about their growth, well-being, and being a diverse company, you had better show up with something other than words.

Your words about the culture and how you think of the team as a family are worth nothing.

Families don’t cut a few kids when they aren’t pulling in as much money as they did the previous quarter. Don’t be surprised if no one’s buying that anymore.

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