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Change: Turning challenge into opportunity

Claudia Bracher Wolfensberger, Partner

Restructuring and downsizing are challenging, but often the only way out to secure the future of the company in an economic crisis. Once the decision has been made, it becomes hard for the people affected and their families, challenging for the management and risky for the trust and reputation of their company.


In Switzerland, there is in principle freedom of dismissal. However, this does not mean that no legal requirements and obligations have to be observed. This is especially true in the case of mass dismissals, which exist when certain minimum numbers are met, depending on the size of the workforce.

The difficult decision may be understandable and rationally justifiable; dismissals are always associated with emotional stress. This cannot be prevented even with prudent communication. But professionally planned communication can significantly reduce stress and protect a company's good reputation. The key factor here is how a message is interpreted by those addressed. Communication specialists call this "framing", i.e. the framework of interpretation.

With the same amount of water, the glass is half-full for some and half-empty for others. Word choice, formulations and thematic references have an influence on how reality is perceived, classified and interpreted. Even the weighting of facts is influenced by this interpretive framework.

If a workforce thinks that operations are running perfectly while management has long been in crisis mode, the shock will be all the greater. It is therefore important to identify possible contradictions between the expectations of all dialog groups (social partners, customers, suppliers, authorities, the public) at an early stage and to take them into account when planning communications. In a change process, almost all contacts will be involved. If, for example, the remaining employees are forgotten, a company risks a loss of trust, especially among those with whom you want to secure the future.

In practice, therefore, a precise plan that does not forget anyone and specifies who is involved and how, and when, has proved its worth. In addition to Q&As, this also includes language rules and training for those managers who conduct the separation interviews.

You have (hopefully) not made the decision easy for yourself. But only the implementation will reveal how wisely you acted. Our specialists have a lot of experience with coaching, delicate communication tasks and in working with internal and external experts such as lawyers or the media. Take advantage of our know-how - so that you improve your future prospects, not diminish them.


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