These are the times that really challenge one's leadership capabilities and the one issue that challenges a leader more than anything is the need to downsize. It is something all managers hate but is sometimes unavoidable. We are currently seeing many layoffs and there will be more in the coming year(s).
As someone who has worked with many companies and individuals experiencing restructuring and downsizing one thing is very clear: HOW these transitions are handled will have a major impact on those involved. And there are 3 things that really need to happen: communicate, communicate, and communicate!
Most leaders communicate less about what is happening then they should. They may think it best to keep things quiet so as not to generate fear and anxiety. Yet the lack of information is often more anxiety-provoking than anything and can lead to a culture of fear.
There is also an assumption that once told, you are done. WRONG. You need to tell, re-tell and tell again. You need to ask, listen, and hear. You need to reassure, remind and re-state. This is true with pre-org planning, during the downsizing process and afterward.
Don't avoid having the difficult conversations, it only makes it worse.
And remember, the employees who stay may feel relief, but they are watching very closely as they determine whether employees in this company are a valued asset or a disposable commodity.