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  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

HOW TO: Have difficult restructure conversations

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Staff on redeployment or retrenchment may be stressed and anxious. It’s often left to their line managers to talk to them one-on-one about their individual situation and next steps. Which they often aren’t trained for!

I'm Lata Hamilton, Change Leadership and Confidence expert. And this is the 11th article in my 15-part Reimagine Restructures Blog Series.

Prefer to watch the 5 minute video? Jump over to my Youtube Channel.

During a restructure, a number of people won’t secure a role in the new structure. These people will be placed on redeployment and then potentially made redundant/retrenched. The emotions these people go through can be quite intense - fear, stress, and anxiety. Which may have started way back when the restructure was first announced. But now, when they're actually being told they are on redeployment or made redundant, there can be mixed reactions:

  • Some people will be ok, and have found their peace as they knew it was their time to move on

  • Others will really struggle, and get angry, distressed and blame the bearer of the news.

What lands on a leader’s shoulders

It can be really tough for leaders to have these conversations. They care deeply about their people. But at the same time this organisational change is critical for your company to survive into the future. Both responsibilities land on a leader's shoulders. It can be hard to handle, especially if that leader

doesn't like conflict or doesn’t know how to have that conversation with someone they may have worked well with for a long time. 

I'm going to give you just a few ideas today around how you can armour your leaders to actually have that redeployment or redundancy conversation.

man job loss depressed

IDEA #1: Get agreement or a common purpose

At the START of the process, when the restructure is first being announced, make sure that everybody understands "WHY" the restructure is happening. And to not just 'say' they understand why the restructure is happening, but to truly buy in. Whatever mechanisms, activities or programs you need

to put people through, to make sure that they do truly understand the purpose and

the criticality of this organisational change, the better. Because if you do that way back at the announcement, when the time comes for redeployment or redundancy conversations, there's already that base level of understanding. So get agreement upfront on the purpose of the restructure and have people articulate back to you why it is so critical and essential.

IDEA #2: Give information early

It can be an incredibly confusing and stressful time for people. The stress is compounded by uncertainty. So give people as much information as possible all throughout the course of the organisational change. Now, the emphasis here is to always be focusing on the WORK.

It is not about people. It's not about people:

  • doing badly

  • doing the wrong thing

  • not being good enough. 

It's about the work, how the work, operations of the business, and tasks need to change. So never make it about the person or the person's emotions. Those emotions might be valid, but I’d suggest it’s not the leader’s place to address those issues. People going through change do have to take a level of responsibility for themselves. There are support mechanisms you’ll be offering as part of your restructure where they can have those conversations on a personal level with people more qualified to provide that emotional support and advice. 

So it is about giving information to people upfront, as early as possible, focusing on the work and then the space, time and support resources to process that.  

IDEA #3: Compassion

This compassion doesn't have to be addressing an individual team member's personal concerns, views and issues. It’s about bringing a level of compassion to the entire process. Doing whatever you can as a company, as a leader, to actually support your people through it. It's really important that people feel like you actually care, and that things are being done from an authentic place. So there's different options out there for you and bringing that element of compassion and care into the process from start-to-finish, end-to-end, is going to be really critical to making sure that everybody – your leaders and your team members – actually have the courage to have some of these difficult conversations. So restructures can be a really challenging time, and what I'd say is: you're not in it alone! Your leaders are not in it alone. There are so many opportunities of services and people, like Passion Pioneers, who can help you through it. Get the support so it doesn’t all land on a leader’s shoulders. 

I'm Lata Hamilton - the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, a Change Management consultancy specialising in digital transformation, operating model changes, and new ways of working and leadership.

Grab my free Creative Launch Ideas Guide with 53 ways to bring your next Change and Transformation to life - download it here.

And if you'd like my help with your next change or building leadership capability for your team, get in touch with me here.


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