How to Handle Layoffs More Effectively

I was talking to a friend of mine, the other day, who didn’t sound like themselves; upon further inquiry, they told me that they were just informed that their division was going to be closing. Merry Christmas – bah, humbug. Which begs the question: is there ever a good time when laying off employees? Are there ways to handle layoffs more effectively?

During our discussion, my friend related that they felt blindsided by the news; they denied having any suspicions that this was coming – no heads up, no ‘water cooler’ talk. Nothing. But my friend still has to go to work, and ‘show up,’ until the last day. I was the listening and supportive ear they needed.

But it begs the question: is there ever a good time when laying off employees? From the employee perspective -NO! But I think employers can do better at this- there are more effective ways to handle layoffs.

To start, being open and communicating would ease the ‘sting’ and leave employees feeling better about the organization; it would allow them to plan better for their next step while ensuring a smoother transition.

It also will sustain a positive environment; well, as happy as it can be, under the circumstances.  I worry for my friend, who already feels defeated, stressed and anxious about what the future holds; having to go to a workplace where everyone is feeling the same does not make for a productive environment.  I wonder how many will be using company time to work on their resumes or surf job boards for their next position.

I think there are ways that employers can do better at this. I’ve spoken with leaders who have said they didn’t want to let their workers know about a layoff ahead of time as they “didn’t want to worry or upset them.” Really? So how did they think their  workers would react upon the news? Letting workers know their may be possible layoffs, and the reasons why (fiscal, going in a different direction, etc.) could let workers understand that these decisions are good for the company.

They would not take it personally but see it from a business perspective, which creates buy-in to the  decision.  Managers should have one-on-one conversations with each worker to give feedback and let them know if there are any potential opportunities elsewhere in the company, or just to hear their thoughts. I also think employers should offer to help them to get their next job, which can be through: recommendations or referrals, offering a month or two of career coaching, or giving them some career planning to map out a strategy for their next steps (after all, manager know their progression and are great assets to have in this area).

Another steps to offer is through a severance package of some type so there is  a ‘bridge’ for workers, who then won’t feel kicked to the curb; it would show that they are thought of and valued. This can a win-win overall.

Layoffs are never fun but are often necessary for an organization to sustain and thrive. Workers should see them in this light so they can accept and move on. Leaders of these organizations can be more open, communicative, and offer helping ways to ensure workers survive after.

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