There is a duality of feelings when a co-worker is laid off. The sudden feeling of relief, accompanied by instant fear of being next, along with the emotions of survivors guilt, are all present, washing over them simultaneously. And what happens next can be even worse.

They suddenly find themselves thrown into the fire, expected to pick up the slack, replace their fallen comrades, fill their roles at peak performance and maintain a positive attitude. Truly frightening, with the kill shots being the lack of clarity and the undercurrent subconscious message that they may be doomed to the same fate as their co-workers in a matter of weeks.

So what is the solution to this real world problem?

Strong leadership is the key to keeping the ship afloat and calming the waters. But strong leadership comes in many forms and in this case, the form needed is crystal clear guidelines, duties, roles, responsibilities and expectations.

The guidelines should lay out the overall flow of the job or duties needed to be performed by importance of priorities. It is an overview of how the day should look and what the key results would look like.

The duties and responsibilities need to be clearly defined. What are the new responsibilities in addition to the current ones before the lay off? What extra duties are now a part of the role? How will these responsibilities be distributed among the staff? Ect

The roles of each staff member will change and this shake up will throw every team member out of their comfort zone and into potential chaos. The stress of the unknown, even in the form of their job, will cause fear to grow by the hour, just because one or more of the team members were laid off. It is imperative that the roles are clearly defined so the staff can quickly create new routines and build a new comfort zone to work in.

Expectations are the result of working together through this list and redefining the duties, roles and responsibilities for not only the staff, but for the support and interaction of the leadership too. Setting that commitment of how the leadership will work with the staff to make things easier will go far and beyond to quell the fears and anxiety that lives within the walls of the facility.

The truth about fear is, it’s married to panic. Panic is irrational, but it’s voice can trick one into thinking the threat is emanate. Panic breeds paranoia,and at that point, it feels like everyone is against you. This is what your staff are feeling: the instant fear takes hold of the work environment.

The truth about your staff is, they don’t know how to manage their fear so they hide it, somewhere deep down inside, but it will bubble and brew until one small, seemingly insignificant thing lights it up. That spark will ignite an inferno that may be impossible to extinguish. People will turn on each other not purposefully, but as a scapegoat because they do not know where to target their fear and anger. The enemy has no face.

They have lost the one place where they had control: their work environment. It may be their only safe place. The place where they know exactly what to do and how to do it. This must be resorted for them and maintained as quickly as possible.

Empathy, communication and relate-ability is the ammunition that will ultimately get your staff through this as a unified team ready and willing to support each other and counsel one another through the unknown instability of a global slowdown.

This is the ugly reality of what happens to your staff when their co-workers are laid off.

Author's Bio: 

W.T. Hamilton is the award winning author of the ONE Chapter Book, The Harsh Truths- - and the co-author of the Your Invincible Power- - book series. He is a business consultant, speaker and author helping driven entrepreneurs solve business problems One Chapter book at a time.

Listen to his interview on Behind The Business Scene- - where he discusses ways to work in this new business environment.