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Hey. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. Your employees? They’re anxious. And it’s limiting their performance.

“Wait,” you’re thinking “who is she to tell me my people are anxious? She didn’t even ask which company or industry I’m in!”

Yeah. I’ve gotten a little nervy. But also, I’m right. Your industry, at present, is irrelevant. Because I’m talking to teams in Tech, in Finance, in Retail, Healthcare, Pharma…you name it. Quaking in boots is the theme of ’23 so far.

And here’s why. Too many companies have played fast and loose – with truth. With people’s livelihoods.

At the heart is layoffs. But it’s not that they’re happening – it’s how they’re happening: absent transparency, empathy, consideration for the human spirit.

Employees are adults. We generally accept the possibility of layoffs. What we can’t – rightfully – accept is the idea of being blindsided. Of being given no notice, or worse, finding out our employment has ceased by mass town hall or email or (I can’t believe I have to say this) trying to log in and realizing our credentials have been revoked.

OK. I may be a little angry. But other leaders’ bad decisions and behavior have now become everyone’s problem. We have to overcorrect.

Here’s the plan. Assume everyone is carrying some low-grade anxiety around. It’s weighing them down – like those apps running in the background secretly depleting your battery.

And we’re gonna combat it with three simple ideas which I’ve adapted from the Trust Triangle.

Trust Triangle

The triangle says we build trust with authenticity, logic, and empathy. Simple.

I’m gonna make it even simpler. Be real. Be clear. Be kind.

Let’s boil this down to some practical ideas:

Be real
  • Tell the truth – always
  • Just show up as yourself – be present
  • Don’t blow smoke. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
  • Share what you know as soon as you know it. The absence of information triggers the grapevine. Which always ends in a dark place
Be clear
  • Stop with the corporate speak and branded memos. Just say words. Unfiltered
  • Tell your teams what they need to know and do. Do not leave ambiguity
  • Be consistent. Don’t contradict yourself. Check your facts
Be kind
  • Their anxiety is valid and real and human. Please treat it as such
  • If you must deliver bad news, be considerate of the recipient’s experience. Give them notice and space and grace
  • Acknowledge those “left behind” — i.e., those not laid off but having lost colleagues while also having to pick up the slack. It’s a lot to ask of them

Listen. Your disengaged talent is my job security. But I’d be happy to change careers in exchange for an employee experience that supports everyone’s collective ability to Deliver, Develop, Connect and Thrive.

Take care of them.