A reader writes:
Even though the economy is starting to pick up and the job market seems to be regaining strength, I have had the idea of layoffs in the back of my head. If I had to let some of my people go, I am not sure I would know how to do it professionally and legally. Any suggestions to settle my racing mind?
Breaking the bad news to someone you respect and have built a professional relationship with can be extremely tough. It makes it even harder when this person is laid off by no fault of their own. With the shaky economy, we have seen record numbers of people losing their jobs. It appears that the economy may be slowly but surely getting back on its feet. But if you are faced with delivering the axe, it is always best to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the situation.
First thing to do if you are notified by upper management that a downsizing scenario may be taking place, ask if you have the permission to make a general announcement to your staff to prepare them if the time should come. Your staff will be shocked and confused but in the long run better for it. Give them a date to when the staffing cuts will begin. It will encourage them to prepare for the worst. DISAGREE – it will cause a mass exodus and may not even happen. Only agree if the entire team is getting let go.
If you are asked to layoff an employee be ready with justification for your and the companies decision. An answer like “just because” or “it’s not you, it’s us” isn’t going to cut it or sit well with the employee across the table. Be understanding but professional. Legally, in some states, you do not have to say and would be advised not to say. That said, the manager should understand that the employee will take whatever is said personally and the manager should use kid gloves – as you said below.
Now that the employee has been thrown into a tailspin, offer some options for them to take control of their situation. Most companies offer severance packages to recently laid-off employees. You can give them the option of extended health benefits instead of monetary compensation. This gives the sense that they still have choices. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to have HR in the room so they can walk the employee through their options.
Finally, even though you are trying to be professional and emotionally distance yourself, you are human. Show sympathy and offer a few kind words can’t hurt.
Have any reader’s been forced into layoff situation on either side? Tell me your stories — the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!
Looking forward to your comments,