A senior position in my organization was recently, and suddenly, eliminated. The person in this role worked with my office closely and was our leader. We haven't received much information from senior leadership other than this was budget-related. Staff in my office, as well as other external stakeholders, are confused and worried by this decision and thrown off by this sudden change in leadership. As a manager, how do I support my staff and stakeholders and reassure them, even when I don't have much information?
Orphaned in the Office
Dear Orphaned in the Office,
If only good communication were the hallmark of every organization, right? Don’t worry, you may feel orphaned but you are not at all alone! How many of the world's problems could be righted if only there were just a few more details, just a little more clarity, just a bit more honest information being shared.
The way I see it, there are basically two avenues to take on this, and I think you’re going to need to use both. The first is tackling the unsettling feeling of redundancies taking place right in front of you and your team and wondering who’s next. With little information, let alone reassurances coming from the top, it’s absolutely normal to feel a level of concern. Your team may feel some sadness at losing a leader, but I’m guessing the real culprit is the unknown possibility of wider-spread cutbacks. And that doesn’t make for a healthy and productive work environment nor does it play well with stakeholders. Now it would be great if I could give you a magical solution that you could implement on your own right now without having to involve anyone else or any sort of confrontation, but sadly that’s not in my bag of tricks. What I recommend is a graceful, articulate, and unemotional quest for information. If you have an HR department then this quest should be squarely directed at them. If you don’t, then it means asking the question to your supervisor, or the supervisor above them. As a manager, you have been charged with caring for, and getting the best out of, your team as well as serving your stakeholders. You have every right to gather helpful information that will serve to stabilize both these groups. Share with your supervisor or HR that your teams have been unsettled by this rather drastic news and that some assurances would not only be helpful, but are necessary. Even if your leadership can’t or won’t share details, they can certainly recognize that some further communication is needed. You may not want to be the one to alert them to this, but you are best suited to do so because you have direct concerns on your hands and those will eventually affect everyone right up to the top.
The second avenue is really best traveled as you wait for the above to take place. This is one of being a cheerleader. In some ways, it’s a diversion tactic that buys time while hopefully more information is coming down the pike. But it’s also a very honest way to provide relief. It’s the reminder of mission and values: why we do this job and who we’re really benefiting. The ease at which we can get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of our jobs is staggering. When was the last time you actually thought about, or talked to a colleague about, the reason this work matters? If it doesn’t matter then perhaps it's time to look elsewhere but that’s a topic for another day. As a manager, you have a unique role to play in reminding your team of the value in what you do. While these sorts of organizational politics are easy to get wound up in, there is a bigger picture out there. Maybe it’s time for a group coffee break to get excited about the “whys” and forget about the “whats” for a few minutes. And hey, it will make you feel good, too!
None of this is easy and I bet you’re thinking “why me?” a lot of the time. But the very fact you’ve brought this question up today, means you are a discerning and caring manager. Those are great qualities that make you perfect for traveling the road ahead.
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.