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6 June 2019 / Read Comments / By: Andrew

The Trifecta (Part Two) What happens to those left behind?

The Trifecta (Part Two) 

What happens to those left behind?

Being left behind in your workplace after a restructure can be a traumatic enough event without the added distress of further uncertainty, increased workload or responsibilities you weren’t necessarily looking for. It is also often also assumed that you are one of the lucky ones who didn’t get the heavy hand on the shoulder, but the truth is that remaining behind has its own stresses and strains to deal with. Suddenly expectations on you can double or triple, your responsibilities and accountabilities grow, yet surprisingly your salary doesn’t! You are congratulated on your new additional role (s) and being an invaluable member of the team without the ‘value’ bit being added. Well... at least not for you! But remember you are doing it for the team (albeit a smaller team) and the comfort of knowing the long term success and viability of the company is in your hands. 

Most people understand businesses need to be profitable and that the most fundamental way to achieve that is through increasing growth and reducing costs. However, being left behind to accept the changes that come with this can be a far more personal and difficult experience to have to go through, especially when you didn’t ask for it, don’t want it, don’t agree with it, don’t understand it, aren’t expecting it and most importantly, aren’t equipped to deal with it.   

Nevertheless changes to your work environment are about as certain as a red light when you’re in a hurry. So when does the emphasis on downsizing or rightsizing (depending on your perspective) stop and the focus turn to the development of those remaining? And when I say development, I’m not talking about the performance reviews, the lip service or the ‘I know you are capable of more’ conversation your manager has with you. I’m talking about the development of added skills and the implementation of added resources provided to help you manage the increased workload that is now in your mind, a more assured reality than your future employment stability. If those left behind are not provided with the increased skills training and resources they need to carry on, what is the point of the resizing or redundancies in the first place? 

For example, after a re-sizing exercise in a company I worked for, a decision to focus on reducing delays to aircraft departures was made. Good idea I thought. Less delays, less costs, happier customers, greater efficiency and a better bottom line. A decision was made to talk with all the stakeholders and let them know the goal and to work out how best to achieve it. My management division decided it would be a good policy to attribute delays they thought were caused by cabin crew directly to them, with a 'please explain’ note attached. So in my an annual review with my manager I was provided with 5 minutes worth of delays that were considered to be my responsibility. I was encouraged to think about how I could achieve fewer delayed aircraft departures. "I think having you come and see me operate and telling me what I could do practically or differently would be a great start" I replied positively, if not a little cheekily. Unfortunately though, my invitation wasn’t taken up by that manager or the half dozen managers who followed him. 

That’s a missed opportunity right there and an important one. As competent as I might have thought I was, there is always the opportunity to improve, learn new ways and learn from each other. It’s not only the responsibility of those left behind to work out how to make more with less. It's the organisation as a whole that needs to support the goal and those who are asked to achieve it. 

In my experience when the step to re-train, re-resource, or up-skill isn’t provided, organisations end up in the long run spending the same or more money on external consultants and experts to come in and fill in the gaps and solve new problems that weren’t there in the first place. Get the fundamentals right and there is no need for creative accounting. In other words, look after those left behind and they will look after the business. 

(Inspired by Deanna Lane’s LinkedIn post ‘What happens when you are left behind…’)