Lots of organizations are laying people off right now. I sympathize with those of you who have lost your jobs. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s anything I can do to help your job search.

While those laid off obviously bear the brunt of the impact, there are also impacts on those who remain at the organization and on the organization itself. Let’s talk about how layoffs affect incident management.

The first problem is that a lot of knowledge just left the organization. The folks who remain are being asked to fill the gaps left by those who were laid off; it’s going to take the remaining folks a while to pick up that burden. Furthermore, the folks remaining likely (and understandably!) feel a bit shell-shocked, nervous, distracted, and concerned about their own future with the organization; that’s not exactly conducive to doing their best work. 

Incidents will probably be more challenging to handle, both because of the missing knowledge of those who’ve departed and the reduced effectiveness of those who remain. So incidents are going to be more prolonged and more disruptive.

Another consequence is that the organization can enter an incident-inducing cycle. With fewer and more cautious staff, development velocity will naturally slow. Pushing to recover speed increases production pressure, which in turn tends to lead to more incidents.

Additionally, layoff-induced reorganizations take time to shake out. Teams have to adjust to new players and distribute added responsibilities. During the adjustment period, everyone is going to be less effective.

The layoffs likely also created (or exacerbated existing) on-call coverage gaps. Nobody ever seems to have enough people for their on-call rotations, and the departures due to layoffs make this even more challenging.

Layoffs have emotional impacts on the remaining employees. Psychological safety takes a hit when layoffs happen, which increases employee caution and decreases creative, audacious solutions to incidents. These impacts also tend to make incidents longer and more disruptive.

A tendency towards fatalism is often another impact of the post-layoff blues: “What difference does it make? It’s hopeless. Nobody cares. Why should I make an extra effort?” This fatalism can manifest in various ways, including a temptation to skimp on post-incident reviews.

This increase in the number and severity of incidents can put even more stress on the remaining staff. Left unaddressed, it could develop into a self-reinforcing cycle.

So what can you do? Basically, just be aware of these impacts, and factor them into your expectations. As an individual, cut yourself and your coworkers some slack; you’re probably all going to be responding more but responding less effectively for a while. As a manager, adjust your expectations about the amount and quality of work that your team will be able to deliver for the next little bit, until things settle into a new groove; work to rebuild your team’s sense of psychological safety and security. 

And everyone, be kind to yourself and to each other!

IT incidents can be incredibly costly for you with both your customers (resulting in lost revenue, missed sales, and damaged reputation) and your staff (resulting in decreased productivity, reduced morale, and increased turnover). That’s why it’s crucial to be proactive, prepare for future incidents, and learn as much as you can from every incident. As an expert incident management consultant, advisor, and coach, I can guide your organization in developing these critical skills and help you avoid expensive mistakes. Contact me today to learn how I can help your team.