How do you survive after half your team was cut in a lay off?

Your Team & Budget Were Cut: How do You Keep Going?

Most of us have been there—you’re doing well at a job you love. All your projects are going swimmingly and you’re learning a lot. You even have a team of colleagues or direct reports that are killing it in their respective niches. Then suddenly it happens: you find yourself half a team down and beyond overwhelmed. No matter the reason, whether the budget was cut dramatically, people have been let go, or a few key people quit, the reality for you is the same: you're deeply stressed and maybe a little panicky. Thankfully you don’t need to sit in the doom and gloom or resort to finding another job—there are actionable things you can do right now to withstand this tough period (because it will pass!). Here is our advice on how to survive at work after losing half your team…

1. Be totally open with all your communication

If you want to survive a tough work environment, thorough two-way communication is always key. You have to ask the company what their plan of action is in the short term. Will they hire freelancers? Or are they working on hiring new people and you’re expected to operate with the current team lineup? Pro tip: come to the discussion with a very specific plan as a suggestion. What resources could you lean on? Are there ways that you could augment your team with the budget you know of? Who can handle existing projects? Are there freelancers you'd like to work with on a project or part-time basis? You will need to have an open dialogue about what’s feasible in the day-to-day (see the following tip for more). Finally, be sure to ask what the long-term plans are so you can figure out your next steps beyond this rough patch. Then follow up, if you’re not seeing the company follow through on their promises to bring in help, new hires, promised benefits, and more.

2. Organize and reprioritize with your skeleton crew

Along with open communication comes the ability to organize and reprioritize tasks. You have to recognize the amount of work you can and can’t do with a team this small. Cutting a team in half means some projects may take double the time—so it's time to determine: what’s the priority here? Then be honest when you and your remaining team have no time for certain tasks with all stakeholders. Know that while you might not be able to say “no” to all new projects, you can say “not right now” and specify a timeline it would take to get the job done. Proactively ask to move deadlines and for help when you need it. Then work together with other managers and teams to figure out new due dates while you continue doing your job to the best of your ability. Offer your help to colleagues who are struggling with projects, too. Generosity and kindness go far in times like these and you might find yourself in need of their help down the road.

3. Remain positive and flexible

During times of turmoil in any job, there are bound to be twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Another way to survive this wild ride lies all in your mind. Stay positive, especially in your interactions with fellow team members who are having a tough time. Positivity is contagious and can help keep morale up when all else feels down. And when things suddenly change, for better or worse, remain flexible through it all. Your resilience can show other team members how it’s possible to stay the course in a tough environment. If others remain bitter about change, then reach out and collaborate directly. Offer help to those who are struggling—it’s another way to show them that the tough parts are not as bad with a different mindset and support.

4. Look for opportunities to upskill

If your job has you doing the same on the daily, then take this opportunity to look at unfinished work that’s available and upskill. For example, say you’re a designer that’s mainly worked on homepages but now you find your team without a senior designer who works on brand concepts. Ask to be put on these opportunities and then learn and grow with them. You’ll be helping the company while helping yourself to on-the-job learning that advances your career. Who knows—they might even promote you! This advice also goes for switching careers within the company. If you’re looking to learn a new skill, be upfront with your manager and take the time to learn. They’ll appreciate your dedication to the company and you’ll be giving yourself a new lease on your career. It’s a win-win for you both. 

You might not be able to control that people are quitting, having to go on leave, or are laid off during tough times. But what you can control is how you communicate, how you prioritize your work, how you stay flexible, how you work for yourself and with others, and how you stay positive. Remember that you’re not alone and take the time to collaborate and even celebrate your resilience as a team. Together you’ll one day be able to look back on this period in time as one that made you all stronger in many ways. 

And if you’re looking to bring on more flexible hires or project-based support, we can help build a plan and find talented freelancers for for your project.

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