Managers are feeling pressure to perform after mass layoffs. Here’s how employers can better support them

A man sits in front of a laptop as he holds his head in his hands.
Senior leaders should avoid asking middle managers to take on extra work after layoffs.
Luis Alvarez—Getty Images

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Companies are preaching the importance of employee productivity, and middle managers are feeling the pressure. 

Already dealing with the brunt of layoffs and heightened scrutiny over their organizational value, middle managers are also getting tasked with picking up the slack of laid-off colleagues and driving greater output with fewer resources. 

My colleague Lila MacLellan covered the squeeze these mid-level bosses experience and detailed how leaders can better address these pains in a recent piece for Fortune.

“Rather than try to squeeze more out of employees…the better approach is to ‘fill people up.’ Not only is that the most humane and empathetic response, but it’s also going to benefit the organization: Employees who feel inspired, rested, and secure are more likely to perform well.”

MacLellan notes that after layoffs, the knee-jerk reaction is for companies to discourage people from discussing what happened. “They really fear communication,” Dawna Ballard, professor of organizational communication at the University of Texas at Austin, tells her, adding that leaders “should know that no research across time has ever shown that less communication is better.” 

MacLellan highlights that, by contrast, “more communication typically leads to better outcomes, so managers can ease employee anxiety by giving them the time and space to speak freely.”

Ballard also warns against piling onto employees’ workloads or indirectly signaling an expectation to work longer hours. Research shows that increasing work hours to improve productivity has the opposite effect, MacLellan writes. “The change happens quickly—in weeks, not months—so managers must model strong boundary-setting and explicitly push for their teams to avoid overwork.”

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

The Salesforce-owned Slack Future Forum research group has long served as a resource for employers looking to gain insights about remote work best practices. Now, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is shuttering the group amid a push to get workers back to the office. 

“The decision to shutter the Future Forum comes after reports that Salesforce is mandating a return to the office for some employees at a manager’s discretion—despite the benefits of flexible work that Future Forum found in its research,” writes Fortune’s Kylie Robison and Jane Thier.

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

With a slew of pay transparency laws going into effect, some employees find that new hires stand to make substantially more than them. Financial Times

- Walmart hired a director of workforce mobility and tasked them with finding ways other than cars to get corporate employees to work. Bloomberg

- Some employers are using A.I. to evaluate job candidates in virtual interviews. Washington Post

- Accusations of “fake work” in the tech industry belie a worse problem: bad management. Insider


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Guac is still extra. Ex-employees from the first Chipotle restaurant to file a union petition will receive a $240,000 settlement after Chipotle shut down the store in what workers claim was retaliation for their organizing efforts. —Patrick Whittle

SVB stock options. According to one worker, Silicon Valley Bank employees received up to 50% of their annual compensation in company stock, which is now worthless. —Eleanor Pringle

Stay-at-home parent. In a sign of changing attitudes, more than half of respondents in a Harris Poll survey believe income rather than gender should determine which parent stays at home with the kids. —Megan Leonhardt

CRE spells trouble. Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk said mass defaults on commercial real estate due to remote work is the "most serious looming issue" in global finance. —Alena Botros

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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