No one likes layoffs. The word layoff makes you cringe and worry about your own personal job security. But for someone who just laid off over 5 dozen people, I wanted to share that the layoffs are hard for the person doing the layoff as well as those involved in making the decision to do the layoff. But there are some ways to make it more manageable. Here are my 5 steps on how to make layoffs go as smoothly as possible.
- Decision Making
The pandemic hit and everyone was in uncharted waters. Many companies tried to cut as many costs as possible before having to make the decision to cut staff. Companies that communicated from the executive and manager level about their cost cutting steps at the beginning of the pandemic, from closing the gym and cafeteria to canceling trips and trade-shows, created environments of transparency and trust with their employees. Discussing shelter-in place openly and how they were handling essential employees, helped lay the groundwork to help employees prepare for the fact that changes were coming.
- Communication Plan
Leaders need to have a clear and concise plan to share the news with the right stakeholders throughout the process. The plan needs to include the “how-to” aspect of laying off people, especially when they are mostly working remotely. Provide everyone talking to employees with company suggested and approved talking points. These talking points will keep everyone on the same page, delivering the same message consistently. Some things to think about-What are the managers expectations vs those of HR? What about getting laptops and company equipment back? What are the messages for those not being laid off? Take the time to think thru all of these things, you’ll be glad you did.
- Manager Prep
Define the managers role in the conversation. For new managers it’s likely that they’ll be nervous having to lay people off and handle the emotional aspect of the process and conversation. Talk about that. Role-play the conversation. Provide a script of things to cover and what not to cover. Giving a manager the guidance and approved talking points to answer the tough “who else is affected” and “why me” questions, will give the manager more confidence in handling the conversation. Make extra time for managers that have never done a layoff before, they will need coaching and encouragement before speaking with their employees. Don’t schedule the layoff conversations until the managers are prepared and ready.
- The Conversation
Most people assume a layoff is coming when they’re asked to be part of a call with their manager and Human resources. Start the conversation talking about the fact that the decision is not performance related. It is still tough to hear the layoff messaging but it’s important to reassure people that this isn’t happening because of something that they did. Be prepared to explain their eligibility for unemployment and provide them with necessary information on how to file and what that process is like. People appreciate information, so be clear on how to return a company issued laptop and how they would retrieve their personal items. Be specific in things that you appreciated about the employee and their work. And be prepared for questions.
- Listening and Empathy
It’s common for the manager to be nervous having this conversation but it’s important to remember that this is very difficult for the employee, so active listening skills are critical. Be tuned into the person’s body language, facial expressions and what they say. It’s helpful to reiterate back what they have said so they know you understand their perspective. Be prepared to be patient during the conversation and don’t interrupt them. This conversation is not the time to dispute untrue facts that the person may share or lash out with. When you’re listening with empathy, keep your emotions in check and try not to become emotional. Remember: understand first, evaluate later.
Even people experienced in handling layoffs can find it difficult and stressful – that is normal. But if you take the time to follow these steps, you’ll be setting yourself up for a situation that will go as smoothly as possible.
Do you have any other tips? Share them with us.
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