It's no secret that the economy is in rough shape, and layoffs are the highest in decades. But for those who managed to keep their jobs, moving forward after seeing co-workers go out the door might be difficult, and it's up to their managers to keep them on course.

Help The Survivors

"Layoffs are intended to reduce costs and promote an efficient, lean and mean organization," writes David Noer, author of "Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations." "However what tends to result is a sad and angry organization, populated by depressed survivors."

"You have to realize how the survivors feel," adds Scott Gunderson, professor and co-chair of business at Dakota County Technical College. "There's a degree of `Am I next?'"

Managers need to realize that those who kept their jobs might feel anxious, especially if the company sent mixed messages.

"Workers go into lockdown mode, especially when the message has been `We're a strong company,' and then layoffs occur," says Gunderson.

Some workers leave their companies of their own volition during a round of layoffs, simply for the sake of control. They don't know if they'll be the next on the chopping block, so they look for work elsewhere.

Rebuild Trust

What helps everyone move on is good communication. It's also important to let employees vent and share their feelings.

"The fix is focusing on rebuilding trust," says Gunderson.

Hopefully, when times were good, you got to know your employees and related with them on a personal level. Now is the time to tap into that, using that personal knowledge to rebuild trust.

Share your business plans with workers. When you let them know how you're going to move forward positively, you give them confidence and a reason to stay.

"You don't just want to talk at a high level," says Gunderson. "Tell them how it affects them."

Layoffs leave a devastating impact, but the best way to keep remaining workers productive is to communicate honestly with them and understand their concerns.

Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer from Blaine.