"Redundancies poisoned our culture - what should we do?"

Management Today’s resident agony uncle, Octopus Group chief executive Simon Rogerson, offers advice for winning back trust.

by Simon Rogerson

Question:

The pandemic hit us hard. We made extensive use of furlough during the first wave, but after the second wave began we were forced to make redundancies (19 of our 130 employees). The process was far more acrimonious than I expected or wanted. Even now there’s a tension on calls. 

No-one’s said anything to me directly, but I heard from one of our managers that people were saying things like: “You’re not going under, so couldn’t you just take a hit on the bottom line for a year?” We didn’t go under but I didn’t know that back in November. We’re in a strong position to grow again in H2, and I just want to draw a line under it with the team. What can I do to win back their trust?

Simon Rogerson says:

That’s really tough. The pandemic has meant that lots of businesses have had to take some difficult decisions, often letting some of the team go to ensure the overall survival of the business. While that’s understandable (and very logical), it’s very damaging to the culture within a business. It creates a bigger divide between the management team and the employees, as well as creating a feeling of insecurity that, in my experience, can last for years. 

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