What should you do if you expect to be laid off? Creative_Outlet/Getty Images
Ethan Evans is a retired Amazon vice president with over 23 years of experience as a business executive. Here he describes what managers should consider if they have to lay off employees.
I once laid off a third of the employees from the startup I had just helped build. Since I was Vice President of Operations, I held a number of roles including human resources and recruiting. But: A shrinking startup no longer has to hire employees. That’s why I carried out the dismissal as my last official act and was dismissed myself the next day.
The entire year before, I had been focused like crazy on hiring new employees. The internet wisdom at the time was: “Grow up quickly.” Goldman Sachs had given us tens of millions of dollars and urged us to grow as quickly as possible.
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Within a year, our number of employees rose from 50 to 150. Four months and two waves of layoffs later, we were back at 50. We followed the advice of the “experts” and ultimately plunged ourselves into the abyss. There are currently layoffs in many companies. Good managers must be knowledgeable in all areas of the layoff process – for the benefit of their team members and themselves.
In order to manage this process well, several aspects are required:
Depending on your position in the company, you may be involved in planning the layoff and deciding who stays and who goes. If you feel that a layoff is imminent, you should try to participate in the process. This is how you can influence the result.
Being involved in these decisions is very painful because you are making decisions that impact your employees and their families. But it’s even worse if you’re just the bearer of the message, because that conveys bad news and helplessness at the same time.
Every person reacts to being laid off in very different ways. I once had an employee go back to his desk and break a glass award the company had given him. He thought it was meaningless after he was fired. Other employees were so upset that they couldn’t attend the meetings. We had to let her go home and process the event. They came back the next day to finish the conversation.
In such cases, as a manager, it is important to remain calm yourself so that you can adapt to the employee’s needs and the situation. Don’t feel like you have to force a script on the employee if it’s the wrong thing for the person across the table.
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Even if you have information that you must share for legal reasons, you should take a break if the employee can’t handle it. Give it a minute, or consider coming back the next day to get the details. Scripts help you organize yourself, avoid omissions, and keep your own emotions under control. But you should adapt your explanations to the respective situation. Behave as you would expect your superior to behave.
3. Help for affected employees
As draining as the actual layoff can be, the real work of a manager begins after the list is made. This is where you start to support employees in finding their next task. It’s often possible to place team members in other open positions within your company, either directly or by strongly recommending them to managers who are still hiring. In other cases, referring and introducing her to managers at other companies can help her.
In my case, I organized a meeting of laid-off employees and gave them all a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute, a job search guide. We sat down together, discussed job search tips, and developed a process for giving each other leads. Through this collaborative process, affected employees received a support network and additional resources to take their next step.
4. Retaining your team
If you remain with the company, your other challenge as a manager will be retaining and motivating your team. After a wave of layoffs, the team will have a lot of feelings and worries. This includes sadness and anger over the dismissal of colleagues and the feeling that the company has let them down. But it’s also about worrying about your own job and the question of how to deal with the new job that no longer exists.
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These worries all have emotional roots. All too often, especially in tech companies, we focus on logical explanations when what employees (people!) actually need is help with their concerns.
Give them time, space and support as they adapt to the new circumstances. Then shows a clear path forward. Most employees can and will re-engage after a layoff if you can show them how they and the company can thrive.
We need qualified, compassionate and prepared leaders
No one is trained on how to handle a layoff. It is a taboo topic in many companies. But to protect yourself and your team, you need to inform yourself in advance. Most long-time leaders will go through several cycles of layoffs in their careers, and the best leaders know that layoffs are relatively common. Knowing this, they prepare to weather a layoff rather than be caught off guard by it.
I made the decision to lay off employees and I have been laid off myself. As I reflect on both sides of the experience, I can say without a doubt that a competent, compassionate and prepared leader makes all the difference.
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This is a machine translation of an article from our US colleagues at Business Insider. It was automatically translated and checked by an editor.
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