Rules for the Next Round of Layoffs

It’s incredibly unfortunate—the mass layoffs, yes, but what’s more tragic is the lack of emotional intelligence around these firings. If you’re like the rest of America you’ve heard office horror stories, one after the next, from friends and family who were laid off in completely inappropriate ways.

Some offices are separating the haves and the have nots into two rooms and making general announcements that now you “have not” a job. Other stories include clear discrimination of age, gender, whether or not you have kids, or how much more he needs the health insurance than his desk mate. There’s no pleasant way to fire someone, let along a valued employee, but there are a few tips you can use to make this next predicted round of layoffs much less painful than the first.

Provide help navigating the maze of unemployment

Most employees will be filing for unemployment after they’re let go, especially since the tanked economy is not allowing for many severance packages. Depending on what state you live in, this can be a torturous process. States like California have had major website crashes and clogged phone lines from the increased traffic, so much so they had to change some of their processes.

It can be as easy as creating a PDF with the proper contacts and links for each type of employee or department. It will be a small task for the leadership team that your values ex-employees will greatly appreciate.

Provide letter of recommendations and referrals

Something that’s a little more timely, but will go a long way for the employees you fire is letters of recommendation accompanied by a referral for a new position at a different company. Show your old team members that although this unfortunate situation forced your hand you want the best for them. Offer them your connections at different companies to help them get their foot in the door elsewhere.

Be as clear as you can about their future

Right now, there are a few options on the table for those losing their job—fired, furloughed, or reduced hours. Be clear and upfront about what your plan is for the future of their job at your company. If you can’t be certain, give them a plan A, a plan B, and hey, maybe even a plan C.

And, equally as important, make sure you explain why you’re making the decision. Honesty is important here. Give true feedback about job performance if it played into your decision making or get vulnerable about the fate of the company that was the deciding factor.

Be compassionate and treat each employee like they matter

Organizational Change Expert and Author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, Robert Sutton, says that the best way to soothe the burn of being fired is to be compassionate toward the person being laid off and to be compassionate when you speak about the person to others.

Part of this compassion can be found in the small act of a one-on-one conversation. We’ve heard the horror stories of mass layoffs going on where companies make a general announcement to the employees being let go and leave them to publicly cry in a room together. It feels like it should go without saying, but each employee deserves a private conversation (even if it’s just with their direct supervisor).

Hopefully, we can turn the economy around before another round of layoffs is necessary. But in the grave case that we are unable to and you are put in another tough situation, remember these rules of thumb and make this experience as painless as possible.

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