The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 524,000 jobs were lost in December 2008 across most major industry sectors. The U.S. economy has shed more than 5 million jobs since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. Clearly, many organizations will be faced with unavoidable workforce reductions before the end of the current recession. No matter how justified, the task of reducing headcount is one of the most difficult and emotionally wrenching experiences that managers and those losing their jobs will face.
Despite the current gloomy job loss statistics, things will turn around. Managers should keep in mind how layoffs are handled today can impact how well a company rebounds in the future. Reducing your workforce is never easy, but you can make matters far worse for everyone involved if you fail to meet the responsibility of informing individuals they are being “let go” in a professional, straightforward and honest way. Poor handling of layoffs affects not only the individual losing his job but also the morale of remaining employees and the reputations of management and the organization.
-At one company, a manager asked employees to clean up their desks for a special guest visiting that afternoon. The special guest turned out to be someone from HR coming to inform the employees they were being let go.
-A woman found out she was fired from her job of 18 years when her son, who also worked for the same company, called her at home to tell her that he had been let go and so had she.
-Amid rumors of impending layoffs, one organization published a new company directory in which 10 percent of the employees’ names were missing. Needless to say, several hours of productivity were lost as employees poured through the directory to see who was missing. The email exchanges that followed were not morale building.
So what is the right way to deliver the news to people that they are being let go? Of course, managers must take proper measures to ensure the security of the company and its property, as well as work within the parameters of company policy regarding layoffs. After considering such important measures, managers are still at risk of overlooking the critical human factor involved with layoffs. Here are five points that will help you avoid this mistake and do the right thing in a layoff situation.
1. Keep employees informed of your organization’s current business situation. Let employees know where the company is doing well and where it is not. Being forthright with the health of your business will help employees understand the rational behind the company’s decision, if and when layoffs do occur.
2. Take responsibility for the decision. You need to reduce headcount to protect the economic viability of the company. Shifting blame for the decision appears cowardly and dishonest.
3. Whenever possible, deliver the news in a face-to-face meeting. Never inform a person of their termination via email or voicemail. The news should come from the employee’s direct manager, not supervisors with little or no relationship to the person being terminated.
4. If possible, provide support to employees being laid off through such things as career placement services, job fairs and reference assistance.
5. Remember that this is not just about “business” to those losing their jobs. Job loss is an issue with many potentially tough implications to an individual’s personal life. Take time to thank people for their contribution to the organization and listen to feedback.
Handling layoffs appropriately is not only the right thing to do but also protects the competitive edge of your company. Proper management of staff reduction preserves morale among remaining employees, establishes the bridges you need to rehire valuable talent when things turn around and maintains the good reputation of your company among potential employees, partners and customers.