Considering all the economic struggles over the past years faced by the American workforce, everyone knows someone who has had to face a layoff or has been part of the layoff process themselves. It’s not fun or easy or pretty, but layoffs can be handled well. Or they can crash and burn very quickly and terribly. While this isn’t something we handle at Arthur Diamond Associates directly, we do work closely with companies that have had to face layoff challenges and here are some of our thoughts on how to handle having to lay off staff.
Never let people go on a Friday afternoon. Or late in the day anytime in the week, really. This is a business decision so keep it during the early business hours so those facing the chopping block don’t have to head straight into their leisure hours dealing with such difficult news.
Don’t delegate. Another really crucial piece of the puzzle to having layoffs be as non-acrimonious as possible is to never delegate the task or hide behind HR. Needing layoffs to restructure the company or deal with lean times was a leadership call, and leadership needs to own it. Be front and center and accountable from the CEO and Board that made the decision to the senior managers that probably have to handle the nitty gritty of face-to-face layoffs with their staff.
Support those who leave…and those who stay. Layoffs are obviously tough on those who get laid off. It’s also difficult for those left behind at the organization–their colleagues are suddenly gone, the direction of the company is likely shifting (whether that is communicated properly or not) and morale is going to be a real downer for a while. This is a classic case of the “treat others as you’d like to be treated” mantra. Resources for the departing and the remaining, quality severance packages, helpful references and a clear explanation for both sides as to why this had to happen will help keep ill will at a minimum.
Set your former staff up to become successful in the job market. It’s important to help give these newly laid off employees, now considered job seekers, the tools they can hit the ground running with to find new opportunities. Outplacement services that help people with career guidance, resume writing, interview prep and more can really aid the transition from layoff to a new job.
The last true cornerstone to an as-positive-as-it-can-be layoff process? Be honest and communicative…and have clear explanations for why these layoffs are happening. The rumor mill will swirl the second someone smells layoffs and there is nothing worse than the level of misinformation that will get passed around in the vacuum of an honest and frank conversation between leadership and staff. While there is no need to lift the veil and give everyone a head’s up that layoffs are imminent, avoiding employees questions and letting their fears feed off itself just leads to a fractured, frightened workforce. Be as supportive, positive, communicative and honest in the bad times as you would be in the good ones, and that’s the best you can do to do right by your staff in a difficult time.