The power of empathy in times of redundancy

woman being made redundant, redundancy, leaving a jobAccording to the latest ILO (International Labour Organisation) data nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing livelihoods.

We are not alone in this reality, yet the shared weight of this time is of very little comfort. As the numbers of redundancies continue to soar our confidence of the speed to recover to ‘pre Covid’ team structures continue to dwindle. Being able to empathise with those around you, and see this new world through their eyes, can have a critical impact on the agility with which both employees and employers can move forward.

It has become a reality of our cities and something that has potentially created more wide spread impact on our shared emotional health than the fear of the virus itself. Whether someone is expecting this bad news or it arrives as a shock, redundancy sends people swirling into an unexpected ocean of disappointment, fear and insecurity, and this all too common experience in 2020 can take a lasting toll on self-confidence if managed badly. There are of course likely to be immediate financial implications, which often get the majority of our focus, yet more poignant is the potential for loss of identity, esteem and confidence. These emotional facets can go on to require major readjustments if leaders shy away from managing these scenarios with the humility and understanding that people require;  ‘requirements’ that have never been more poignant or critical for leaders to take note of.

Managing redundancy with empathy

Being an empathetic leader means walking in the shoes of your team and understanding their realities, however there will still be times when your empathetic compass has to be firmly swung to the macro empathetic impact rather than the compassion or commitment you feel personally for an individual. As a leader you often have to do ‘unfair’ things in the name of macro impact or a wider circle of influence, and Covid-19 has seen us fall under this requirement more often than we would like. In the end however that is the job of the people at the top and it is therefore critical that we are able to fuse the needs of the one with those of the group.

There is a common misconception that leading with empathy means never making tough decisions or delivering bad news which is simply not true. What is true however is that of all empathetic principles of Regenerative Leadership the hardest to master is how to use empathy when making tough decisions that negatively impact others.  The ability to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the business as a whole can be a strikingly hard balance to perfect. This is where the hard edge of committing to empathy comes alive and it’s an edge we all need to get comfortable with. It may be far easier to not invest into empathetic engagement and leadership in times of stress but our shared strength garnered from doing so is critical to protecting both the individuals and our wide-reaching emotional health as a national workforce.  We need our people to move forward with confidence and resilience if we are to rebuild our people, our economy and our organisations at pace.

The reality is that people may lose their job due to your decisions, but the difference of this experience will come into its own when you can lead and share the reality of those decisions with empathy. Taking the time to listen to the reactions, the feedback, and the needs of the person and trying to give those team members the support they needed in the wake of an entirely disruptive and uncomfortable situation becomes a critical commitment. The redundancy may be out of your control but the way you manage the consequences, with humanity and understanding, is entirely within your control. Extending their pay check, their health insurance, their working visa or helping them find another role, widening their network, writing to their landlord, supporting them in fixing their CV; whatever it takes, because in the end, people come first and it is people that will rebuild our society post the year that was 2020.

Whatever you do in these times, don’t try and hide from the pain. It is painful and the world is crying because of it. As leaders, we have had to make tough decisions and that hurts too. But our shared strength, our shared growth going forward, demands that we have to own this discomfort with soul and empathy in order to be able to influence the greater good. Redundancy and empathy may not be the most natural words to fuse in a sentence, but they will be the most important to fuse in our decision making as leaders going forward.

Mimi NicklinAbout the author

Mimi Nicklin is a globally recognised millennial thought-leader. She is host of the Empathy for Breakfast show, Secrets of The Gap podcast and author of new book Softening the Edge out 15 September priced £10.95. For more information go to

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