This article is the last in a three-part series focusing on the experiences of retrenchment implementers in SA. In part one, the author looked at how implementers experience their role when implementing retrenchments. Part two revealed feedback on the experiences of the actual retrenchment conversation, and part three (this article!) will concern itself with organisational and personal enabling strategies for retrenchment implementers.
Enabling strategies for retrenchment implementers
The majority of participants in the SA case study indicated that they did not receive sufficient, if any, emotional support. As one participant stated, ‘It felt like they didn’t care about me. It would’ve been nice if somebody had asked if I was coping.’ – Wafaa, manager of a manufacturing plant*
If effective, consistent and strong leadership is vital to an organisation’s success, post retrenchment, then it is essential for organisations to proactively and adequately prepare retrenchment implementers. Enabling strategies for the challenges faced in handling retrenchment conversations should be shared, instead of leaving implementers to their ‘own devices’ when coping with emotions.
What shape and form can enabling strategies take? Firstly, organisations need to acknowledge that those charged with the responsibility of ‘laying off’ others need some form of assistance. Organisational support from senior management acts as a significant buffer against work stress, when implementing a retrenchment. A successful example of this is shared by Zodwa*, production director at a large retailer: ‘I am close friends with one of the group directors, who is also my direct boss; we talk a lot. That actually pulled me through. He pulled me through, because he understands retrenchment in the same way that I do. We have an incredibly trusting relationship and there is a great deal of understanding between us. He is a huge pillar of support for me and has guided me in dealing with this.’
Unfortunately, the following ‘minority’ experience was less positive … Wafaa*, manufacturing manager, suggests that support should also encompass workload and the associated stresses: ‘It was an unfair load. They could have come down and said to me, “I see that you are writing repeated memos. Are you coping?” It would have been nice to have been asked if I needed help, without being made to feel incompetent or that my career was being judged. It stems from the “Are you tough enough?” ethos, and as a woman it still applies in double measures; you know, can you do the job as well as your male colleagues?’