We’ve written about how to field employee questions about the likelihood of layoffs, how to execute them, and how to rebuild morale once they’re done—but what if there’s another path entirely?

Harvard Business School professor Sandra Sucher, author of The Power of Trust, argues that many of the layoffs happening right now are both misguided and avoidable. Layoffs “are best used—and in my view, only appropriately used—for permanent changes to your business,” she says. “So I’m eliminating a division, I’ve gone through a merger and acquisition process where I have two people in the same job, I’m exiting a market, some technology I’m pursuing is something I’m not going to do anymore.”

Sucher, whose research focuses on trust and workplace change, highlights two alternatives as more prudent reactions to economically difficult times: 1) furloughs, and 2) employee reassignments to other areas of the company, providing training and adjusting pay to match the new role.

Some takeaways from our recent conversation on why both may be more effective options for weathering uncertainty:


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