How to approach employee engagement after layoffs: A complete guide

13 min read
How to approach employee engagement after layoffs: A complete guide

The ping pong table sits eerily silent, its neon glow mocking the hollowness left by empty desks. Where once laughter and brainstorming ricocheted through the office, now you navigate a hushed landscape of worried glances and whispered conversations.

The elephant in the Zoom room isn't just awkward; it's the ghost of colleagues, the sting of uncertainty, and the fragile trust shattered by layoffs.

Engaging employees in this post-apocalyptic work environment feels like waltzing into a minefield. One misstep, a poorly timed pep talk, a fumbled answer to "are we next?" and you're detonating morale faster than a poorly timed office email.

So, how do we breathe life back into this deflated workforce? How do we rebuild trust, rekindle passion, and transform the awkward silences into the fertile ground for a stronger, more resilient team?

This guide is your roadmap.

What is employee layoff?

Employee sitting in the workplace with a box covering the face
What is employee layoff?

Employee layoffs, often an unwelcome chapter in a company's story, involve a strategic reduction in the workforce. It's a response to economic shifts, organizational restructuring, or changes in business priorities.

Essentially, it's a tough decision made by a company to recalibrate and adapt top talent due to evolving circumstances.

In simpler terms, it's a workforce trim that goes beyond mere numbers, impacting lives and reshaping the dynamics of the workplace. Understanding this term is fundamental as we navigate the intricate journey of post-layoff employee engagement.

What are the psychological effects an employee goes through after layoffs?

Employee feeling down in the workplace
What are the psychological effects an employee goes through after layoffs?

Post-layoff, employees embark on an emotional rollercoaster. The shock of sudden change, coupled with more job responsibilities and the uncertainty that follows, creates a unique psychological landscape.

Fear, stress, and anxiety become unwelcome companions, affecting not just professional performance but overall well-being.

Shock and disbelief:

The initial announcement of layoffs often sends employees into a state of shock and disbelief.

The suddenness of the change disrupts the routine and stability they once knew. It's a jolt to their professional system, leaving them grappling with the abrupt and unexpected alteration to their career trajectory.

Fear and anxiety:

Following layoffs, fear and anxiety become pervasive emotions among employees. The prospect of financial instability and uncertainty about the future weigh heavily on their minds.

Worries about meeting financial obligations and providing for their families intensify, amplifying the emotional toll of the layoff experience.

Grief and loss:

Losing a job is not merely a financial setback; it triggers a profound emotional journey akin to grief and loss.

Employees mourn the end of their connection to colleagues, the workplace, and the role itself. Coping with this emotional void becomes an integral part of the post-layoff psychological landscape.

Identity crisis:

The sudden transition from an integral part of a workplace to the uncertainty of unemployment can prompt an identity crisis.

Employees grapple with defining themselves outside the context of their job, leading to a reevaluation of their self-worth and a profound impact on their overall sense of identity.

Self-doubt and insecurity:

Layoffs often instigate feelings of self-doubt and insecurity about one's skills and marketability. Employees question their worth in the job market and harbor doubts about their skills and abilities. Overcoming these doubts becomes a crucial step in rebuilding confidence for the next career chapter.

Motivational struggles:

Maintaining motivation and enthusiasm for job searching can be a significant hurdle post-layoffs. Rejections and prolonged job searches may lead to a decline in enthusiasm.

It becomes imperative for individuals to find ways to stay motivated, seek support, and focus on building resilience throughout the challenging journey of job hunting.

Employers can play a crucial role in providing resources and assistance to help employees navigate these motivational struggles successfully.

How do you rebuild culture after layoffs?

Employers are discussing the next step
How do you rebuild culture after layoffs?

Culture, the heartbeat of an organization, undergoes a seismic shift after layoffs. The challenge is not just restoring it but reshaping it with newfound strength. Transparency becomes the cornerstone.

Open and transparent communication:

After layoffs, initiate open and transparent communication with the remaining staff. Acknowledge the challenges, express empathy, and provide a clear vision for the future.

This transparency builds trust and reduces uncertainty, fostering an environment where employees feel informed and engaged.

Reassess and communicate core values:

Take the opportunity to reassess and reaffirm the organization's core values. Communicate these values effectively, emphasizing the continued commitment to a positive workplace culture.

Aligning actions with values creates a sense of stability and purpose, helping employees understand the shared principles guiding the organization.

Employee involvement in decision-making:

Involve employees in decision-making processes where feasible. Seeking their input and involving them in shaping the post-layoff landscape fosters a sense of ownership and inclusion. This collaborative approach empowers employees and reinforces a culture of shared responsibility.

Invest in professional development:

Rebuilding culture involves investing in the professional development of the remaining staff. Offer training opportunities, workshops, and mentorship programs.

This not only enhances skills but also signals a commitment to the growth and well-being of employees, fostering a positive and supportive culture.

Recognition and appreciation:

Acknowledge the efforts of employees who weathered the storm of layoffs. Implement recognition programs, celebrate achievements, and express genuine appreciation for their resilience.

Recognizing contributions reinforces a culture of appreciation and motivates employees to continue contributing positively to the organization.

Create support networks:

Facilitate the creation of support networks within the organization. Encourage employees to connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support.

These networks, whether formal or informal, help build a sense of community and camaraderie, strengthening the social fabric of the workplace.

Implement flexibility and well-being initiatives:

Recognize the importance of work-life balance and employee well-being. Implement flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, and initiatives that prioritize mental health.

Demonstrating a commitment to employee welfare contributes to a culture that values the holistic well-being of its members.

Leadership visibility and accessibility:

Ensure leadership is visible and accessible during the rebuilding phase. Leaders should actively engage with employees, listen to concerns, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the organization's culture. Leadership visibility fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose.

Rebuilding organizational culture after layoffs is a gradual process that requires intentional efforts. By prioritizing communication, involving employees, and investing in their development and well-being, organizations can foster a renewed sense of cohesion and build a resilient and positive workplace culture.

Companies like Buffer exemplify this by openly discussing values. Post-layoffs, initiating honest dialogues and revisiting core values serves as a compass for reconstruction.

It's not merely about returning to the old normal but creating a culture that weaves resilience and adaptability into its fabric, fostering a workplace where every voice is heard, acknowledged, and valued.

What not to do during layoffs as a manager?

Manager is angry in the workplace
What not to do during layoffs as a manager?

As a manager during layoffs, avoiding missteps is paramount.

Lack of transparency:

Pitfall: Withholding information or being vague about the reasons behind layoffs.

Impact: Breeds distrust and anxiety among employees. Lack of transparency can lead to rumors and speculation, further eroding morale.

During layoffs, it's crucial to be transparent about the reasons behind the decisions. Communicate openly with employees, providing a clear understanding of the organization's challenges and the necessity for workforce adjustments. Transparency fosters trust and helps employees navigate the changes with a clearer perspective.

Abrupt communication:

Pitfall: Announcing layoffs abruptly without proper preparation or sensitivity.

Impact: Causes shock and distress among employees. Abrupt communication leaves no room for emotional processing and may lead to a negative perception of management.

Effective communication during layoffs involves careful planning and a compassionate approach. Managers should ensure that announcements are made with sensitivity, providing employees with the necessary information and support structures to cope with the news.

Ignoring emotional impact:

Pitfall: Neglecting the emotional toll on employees and focusing solely on logistics.

Impact: Employees may feel undervalued and unsupported. Ignoring the emotional aspect can lead to long-lasting negative effects on morale and engagement.

Recognize that layoffs are not just logistical decisions but profoundly impact individuals emotionally. Provide avenues for employees to express their feelings, offer support services, and acknowledge the human side of the process to help mitigate the emotional impact.

Overpromising job security:

Pitfall: Offering false assurances about job security or downplaying the severity of layoffs.

Impact: Erodes trust when promises are not fulfilled. Overpromising creates false hope and exacerbates the impact when employees realize the true extent of the situation.

While optimism is valuable, it's crucial to be realistic in communications. Avoid making promises that cannot be guaranteed. Communicate the uncertainty of the situation while emphasizing the organization's commitment to supporting employees through the challenges ahead.

Isolating leadership:

Pitfall: Isolating leadership from the workforce during the layoff process.

Impact: Fuels resentment and a sense of abandonment. Employees may feel disconnected from decision-makers, amplifying feelings of alienation and distrust.

Maintain open lines of communication between leadership and employees. Leadership visibility and accessibility during difficult times demonstrate a shared commitment to navigating challenges together.

Lack of resources for transition:

Pitfall: Failing to provide resources or support for employees transitioning out of the organization.

Impact: Leaves departing employees feeling neglected. Providing resources demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and helps ease the transition.

Implement comprehensive transition support programs. This includes career counseling, assistance with job searches, and access to training or re-skilling programs to facilitate a smoother transition for departing employees.

Ignoring morale-building efforts:

Pitfall: Neglecting efforts to boost morale and maintain a positive workplace culture.

Impact: Contributes to a toxic work environment. Ignoring morale-building efforts can result in decreased productivity, increased stress, and a decline in overall team spirit.

Actively engage in morale-building initiatives post-layoffs. Recognize and celebrate achievements, foster team cohesion, and communicate a clear vision for the future. Prioritize activities that contribute positively to the workplace atmosphere.

Blaming individuals:

Pitfall: Blaming specific individuals or teams for the need for layoffs.

Impact: Creates a culture of fear and finger-pointing. Blaming individuals fosters a hostile environment and hampers collaboration among remaining staff.

Avoid scapegoating or placing blame on specific individuals or teams. Instead, focus on the systemic challenges the organization faces. Encourage collective problem-solving and emphasize the importance of moving forward collaboratively.

Rushing the process:

Pitfall: Rushing through the layoff process without proper planning or consideration.

Impact: Increases the likelihood of mistakes and oversights. Rushing the process can lead to legal issues, employee dissatisfaction, and a damaged reputation.

Take the necessary time to plan and execute layoffs thoughtfully. Rushing the process can result in errors, both logistical and emotional. A well-executed plan with due diligence minimizes negative impacts and maintains a level of fairness.

Neglecting communication post-layoffs:

Pitfall: Failing to communicate openly with remaining employees after layoffs are complete.

Impact: Leaves lingering uncertainty. Effective communication post-layoffs is crucial for rebuilding trust and maintaining a positive workplace culture.

After the initial layoff announcements, continue open communication with the remaining staff. Address concerns, provide updates on the organization's progress, and ensure employees feel informed and involved in the recovery process. Consistent communication fosters a sense of security and stability.

Avoiding these pitfalls requires a combination of empathy, strategic planning, and a commitment to maintaining a positive organizational culture even during challenging times.

Managers who navigate layoffs with transparency, compassion, and a focus on the well-being of their teams contribute to a healthier workplace environment in the aftermath.

By adhering to these principles, managers can navigate layoffs more effectively, regarding employee sentiment and fostering a smoother transition for everyone involved.

Employee engagement after layoffs statistics

Employee leaving the company
What not to do during layoffs as a manager?

Layoffs can significantly dent a company's brand and reputation, as evidenced by a Randstad study revealing that 70% of companies experienced a negative impact on future talent acquisition, with 81% reporting damage to their brand post-layoff.

Yet, an aspect that merits deeper exploration is the impact of layoffs on employee engagement within the remaining workforce.

Following any layoff, there's a consistent dip in employee trust and morale, even when the process is handled with relative compassion. The emotional state of your remaining employees is intricately linked to your company's trajectory in the subsequent months.

Recognizing the critical interplay between post-layoff employee engagement and broader cultural and long-term business strategies is imperative.

10 Team building activities to try after layoffs to keep up the team morale

Employees are working together to build an idea
10 Team building activities to try after layoffs to keep up the team morale

In the aftermath of layoffs, rebuilding a cohesive team requires more than just professional collaboration—it demands a revival of team spirit and of employee morale. Enter team-building activities, the secret sauce to infuse energy and connection into a dispersed or downsized workforce. Here are  a few to consider –

  1. Virtual coffee breaks: Bring back the water cooler chats virtually. Schedule short, informal coffee breaks to recreate the camaraderie of an office setting.
  2. Share success stories: Celebrate achievements, big or small. Share success stories within the team to boost morale and remind everyone of their collective accomplishments.
  3. Themed virtual events: Organize fun virtual events with themes like "Throwback Thursday" or "Funky Hat Friday" to inject some lightheartedness and creativity into the workweek.
  4. Collaborative playlist: Create a team playlist where each member adds their favorite songs. It's a simple way to connect through shared music tastes and bring some harmony to the virtual workspace.
  5. Online games night: Host a virtual game night where the team can unwind and compete in friendly online games. This fosters a sense of togetherness and friendly competition.
  6. Book club or learning circle: Choose a book or learning topic as a team and schedule regular discussions. It not only promotes continuous learning but also provides a structured platform for open dialogue.
  7. Show and tell sessions: Dedicate a portion of team meetings for "Show and Tell." Team members can share interesting hobbies, talents, or experiences, adding a personal touch to virtual interactions.
  8. Gratitude sessions: Implement a weekly or monthly gratitude session where team members express appreciation for each other's efforts. This fosters a positive atmosphere and reinforces a culture of acknowledgment.
  9. Skill swap sessions: Identify unique skills within the team and organize sessions where members can share and teach each other. It's a great way to appreciate diverse talents and foster a culture of continuous skill development.
  10. Online wellness challenges: Encourage physical well-being by initiating virtual wellness challenges. Whether it's a step challenge or mindfulness exercises, it promotes a healthy lifestyle and team spirit.

Remember, the goal is to create opportunities for connection and engagement, fostering a more positive attitude and supportive team environment in the aftermath of news of layoffs.

Significance of employee feedback surveys right after the layoffs?

Employer reviewing employees feedback
Significance of employee feedback surveys right after the layoffs?

In the wake of layoffs, the importance of employee feedback surveys cannot be overstated. These surveys serve as a crucial instrument for gauging the pulse of the remaining workforce, providing valuable insights into their sentiments, concerns, tough questions, and suggestions.

By promptly seeking feedback, organizations demonstrate a commitment to transparency and inclusion of remaining workers, essential elements in rebuilding trust.

Understanding the impact:

Employee feedback surveys act as a compass, helping leadership comprehend the immediate impact of layoffs on morale, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

This real-time understanding is indispensable for crafting targeted strategies to connect employees, address specific concerns and alleviate anxieties.

Building trust through communication:

Initiating surveys communicates that leaders with a genuine interest in employee well-being and a willingness to adapt. It allows employees a safe space to voice their opinions, fostering a sense of empowerment and assurance that their perspectives matter in shaping the company's future direction.

Strategic decision-making:

Survey results provide concrete data to inform strategic decisions. Whether it's refining communication protocols, adjusting workload distribution, using benefits or implementing targeted support programs, the feedback becomes a blueprint for post-layoff initiatives.

Boosting employee confidence:

When employees see that their feedback translates into tangible actions, it instills confidence in the organization's leadership. This confidence becomes a catalyst for improved morale, increased, boost employee engagement again, more growth opportunities and enhanced retention.

Employee feedback surveys, when strategically conducted and acted upon, become by example, a linchpin in the post-layoff recovery process. They not only navigate the challenges but pave the way for a more resilient, adaptive, and employee-centric workplace culture.

How employee survey results can help you give more confidence to employees to improve morale and retention at work?

Employers are evaluating employees' survey results
How employee survey results can help you give more confidence to employees to improve morale and retention at work?
  • Tangible action plans: Translate survey findings into actionable plans. When employees witness concrete steps taken in response to their feedback, it instills confidence build trust that their voices drive positive change, directly impacting morale.
  • Clear communication of initiatives: Use survey results to shape communication strategies. Clearly articulate how specific survey insights have influenced new initiatives or changes. This transparent communication fosters confidence by showcasing a responsive and attentive leadership.
  • Tailored support programs: Customize support programs based on survey data. Whether it's additional training, employee resource groups, mental health resources, or workload adjustments, employees gain confidence when the support they need and see that the organization is proactively addressing their unique needs and concerns.
  • Recognition and appreciation: Highlight positive survey feedback and acknowledge and encourage feedback and recognize individual or team achievements. Publicly recognizing contributions not only boosts morale but also reinforces that the organization values and appreciates its employees.
  • Employee-informed decision-making: Involve employees in the decision making process in-making processes influenced by survey results. This collaborative approach signals to workers that their opinions are integral to shaping the organization's path forward, fostering a sense of ownership and confidence.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment: Regularly revisit survey results and adjust strategies accordingly. Demonstrating a commitment to ongoing improvement based on employee feedback reinforces the idea that the organization is dedicated to keeping engaged employees and to creating a work environment that aligns with their needs and aspirations.

By strategically utilizing survey results in these ways, organizations not only enhance confidence but also create a workplace culture where employees feel valued, heard, engaged and integral to the ongoing success of the company.


As we wrap up this guide, remember: it's not just about moving forward and returning to normalcy; it's about sculpting a new normal—one forged with focus, empathy, communication, and intentional engagement.

By embracing the lessons from real stories, statistics, and practical strategies, you're not merely rebuilding; you're evolving into a workplace that thrives despite adversity.

To further supercharge your post-layoff recovery journey and continue building a resilient culture, explore CultureMonkey. Our platform is designed to empower organizations like yours with tools and insights to elevate employee engagement, foster a positive work environment, and drive sustained success.

Discover how CultureMonkey can be your partner in shaping a workplace where every team member not only survives but thrives. Together, let's navigate the future of work with confidence and resilience.



Santhosh is a Jr. Product Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.