You go to the office only to find that your security badge no longer works.
You log on to your work computer and access is denied.
The email arrives before the morning you miss it – especially if it’s sent before a big holiday.
An intimate Zoom call with hundreds of people.
You will receive an automatic call.
Or – surprise! — you’re getting severance pay for a job you think you’re still working for.
When it comes to mass layoffs, there’s no end to the worst, most difficult ways some employees first learn they’re being laid off. All of these involve organizations spoiling their employees, making them feel that their years of service and sacrifices do not matter.
“People need to feel respected,” said Sarah Rodehorst, CEO of Onwards HR, an outsourcing technology platform for human resources, legal and finance teams. “[Some companies] treat the offboarding process as a transaction rather than a personal interaction with people.”
One recent example of poorly informed job cuts was last week when Google parent Alphabet fired 12,000 people, first by sending e-mails until dawn, then by locking them out of the company’s systems and disabling security badges, according to multiple reports from former employees. (Google declined to comment, pointing to a blog post the CEO wrote on the day of the firing.)
With layoffs looming in several sectors this year—following Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Stitch Fix and other companies that have recently expanded their workforce—employers should heed the news as much as they do throughout the financial sector. The legal and HR components of the mass layoff, Rodehorst advised.
Otherwise, poor communication and mistakes caused by not communicating last-minute changes to all the departments being laid off can overshadow what the employer is doing right — like offering generous severance and benefits.
It also destroys goodwill with departing employees, demoralizes those who stay behind and can damage a company’s brand reputation with potential employers, said Raymond Lee, CEO of virtual outplacement company CareerMinds.
Notably, the organization is open to criticism on social media and in the press—Better.com found out the hard way last year when CEO Vishal Garg laid off 9% of his company’s workforce, which lasted less than a video call. three minutes. “If you’re on this call, you’re part of the underdog group that got fired,” Garg said. “Your employment here is terminated, effective immediately.”
“You put a lot of effort into treating people well. But when it comes to flying off the plane, it’s almost an afterthought,” Lee said. “You want your departing employees to say, ‘I really enjoyed my years with the organization.’
A layoff can be a business decision for the company. But it’s completely personal and very stressful for the person being fired. That’s why it’s so important to deliver the news with compassion.
Let people know what to expect. Even if you don’t give much advance notice, give some when the layoff is ready to be executed. Employees must inform the CEO or department management that layoffs will occur and provide them with the business reasons for the decision.
This communication should also tell people what to expect if they are directly affected – for example, explain that they will receive an invitation to a meeting with their manager or an email with next steps.
“Advanced communication is key,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Notify people individually. Both Lee and Rodehorst emphasized that employers should always aim to set up in-person meetings with their manager and HR contact for the affected employee. In addition to communicating the termination directly and providing information about severance, benefits, severance services, and other important details, the manager and HR should make themselves available for questions during and after the meeting. This is ideally done face-to-face, but if this is not possible, a remote video meeting can also work.
“You have to give people the opportunity to respond to the situation. You need to have a plan for how an employee can follow up and get their questions answered,” Rodehorst said.
If one-on-one meetings are not possible, alert people to very small group meetings. By “small,” Lee means no more than 5 to 10 people, including a leader or manager they know, who breaks the news.
The logic is twofold. Employees feel in some sense that their privacy and personal status is respected and the organization can reduce the chances of the employee making their grievances public.
The more people in a meeting, the more likely an employee will videotape it and post it on social media, Lee said. With very small groups, “you minimize the risk of something bad happening.”
But even keeping things small won’t prevent resentment or demoralization if you don’t emphasize that the firing has nothing to do with a person’s performance. “Leaders must remember the disruption that will occur in the lives of employees and emphasize that the decision has nothing to do with the talents of the affected employees. Outgoing employees … need to know they are valued when they leave,” said Challenger.
– CNN’s Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report