Making people redundant is a painful exercise - so it's vital to do it in the best way possible.
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Saying goodbye to employees is easily a business leader’s most difficult job — especially if the employee is getting laid off. Unlike with a firing, which is almost always the employee’s own fault, a layoff could be caused by management’s shortcomings.
As the boss, you could have been a little savvier about the market, a bit more aware of the business’s cash-flow, or a stitch better at marketing and sales strategies, and then you wouldn’t have to put your employees out of their jobs.
That’s why it is incredibly important to perform layoffs correctly. If you act without compassion or care, your ex-employees will depart with bad feelings, which they can turn into weapons to harm your business’s reputation.
You will never be able to predict when you need to perform layoffs, so it is even more critical that you know the proper procedure beforehand. Here are some tips to help you and your employees survive the layoff process with good memories.
Set the Stage
The environment where you perform layoffs is more important than you might expect. Before you start telling employees to pack their bags, you should find the setting that provides the most comfort, support, and safety for you and the people you are letting go.
First and foremost, the layoff space should be quiet and private. Never should you allow the rest of the team front-row seats to any termination, but it is especially important that layoffs occur in a secluded room. Ideally, that room will be sparsely decorated; it is bad taste to show wealth or success when your company can no longer afford to employ certain workers.
Finally, you should consider the logistics of entry and exit. Ex-employees should have direct access to the door should they feel the immediate need to leave. Further, they shouldn’t be forced to parade before the rest of the office, especially if you are expecting to perform more layoffs.
Being called into an unexpected one-on-one meeting is nerve-wracking even at the best of times. Your employees likely already know that the business isn’t doing well; layoff rumors might already be thick in the air.
Therefore, you shouldn’t try to mislead soon-to-be-ex-employees with small talk or discussions about ongoing projects. Instead you should get right to the point: “I have some bad news. We’re letting you go.”
You should avoid allowing the conversation to devolve into an argument or debate. Once you tell someone they are getting laid off, you cannot go back on your decision. Still, if the ex-employee seems up to it, you should try to perform an exit interview.
This will help both of you review the ex-employee’s time at your organization, find ways to improve employment for others, and provide closure.
By far, the best way to end a termination is by offering outplacement services. Almost like employment insurance, outplacement helps laid off employees find new career opportunities with other companies. Sometimes, outplacement providers will even perform layoffs for you — but it is much more compassionate to tell your employees yourself.
If your business can’t afford outplacement, you should at least offer resources to help your ex-employees move on. You can provide contact information for employment counseling, unemployment services, job training, and small business development programs.
Even better, you can equip them with positive recommendations, so they find it easier to acquire a new position somewhere else. At the very least, you should consider offering numbers for suicide or depression hotlines; after job loss, the incidence of these mental disorders increases dramatically.
Practice Makes Perfect
Just as you practice your big presentations beforehand — just as you practice your holiday speeches — you should practice performing a layoff. Using a mirror at home, you can recite your layoff script and watch your facial expressions and body language.
Your words and your demeanor should convey regret and resolve, sympathy and certitude. Like an actor rehearsing an important role, you shouldn’t leave the mirror until you have the muscle memory to deliver your lines correctly.
The more layoffs you perform, the better you will become at responding to ex-employees’ various reactions. However, the process never gets comfortable or enjoyable. After you complete one termination, you should allow yourself a period to destress: take a walk, eat lunch, lift weights, call your mom. Then, you can come back to work emotionally refreshed.