The sense of trust built between executives and managers has faced tremendous challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of workers facing layoffs and companies themselves facing uncertain futures.

That sense of trust can be crucial during cutbacks, however, helping to ensure a smoother process and transition. Expressing concern is one effective way to maintain that bond, even at the end, according to a recent Kellogg Insight posting.

Specifically, the blog recommends managers express genuine personal concern to and for employees facing layoffs. In other words, showing your humanity is an important managerial skill during cutbacks. What’s more, that concern must be backed up with action to help mitigate future problems, such as severance packages that can help soften the blow.

“Expressions like these are much more convincingly communicated when accompanied by actions,” the posting notes. “One clear sign of fair-mindedness and concern is a willingness to mitigate the pain, rather than just making others bear the brunt of such actions.”

At the same time, a laid off employee faces plenty of struggles, particularly in the pandemic-era economy. The posting recommends that leaders acknowledge this too, and said that this can be helpful and make the layoff process a smoother one for all parties.

“If a leader has built a reputation for trustworthiness, their decision to lay off employees is more likely to be viewed as a last-resort decision to keep his or her company alive,” the Kellogg Insight article argues. “By making this intention clear, the leader can demonstrate genuine care for those who were laid off, as well as for those who remain.”

The full Kellogg Insight article – “You’ve Worked Hard to Earn Your Team’s Trust. What Happens If Layoffs Are Necessary?” – can be accessed at this link.

(Kellogg Insight is published by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.)