Being let go from a long-held job can hit a person like a ton of bricks. Unless the employee has been involved in prior conversations indicating a potential downsizing or notification of an unfavorable job review, being let go can come as quite a shock. There are strategies, though, that employers can take to help make the experience less difficult for all concerned.
Consider the Consequences
As an employer, you might ask why you should care about protecting a to-be-terminated employee’s feelings. The answer is found in the words of mutual respect, reputation, and doing the right thing. The idea that you will reap what you sow repeatedly proves itself. Sow ill feelings and you will reap ill feelings. Show callous disregard and you will provoke inflammatory gossip.
Then there are the secondary consequences to consider when terminating employees.
Swift and furious terminations tend to result in more secondary consequences than those terminations that are carried out more compassionately and respectfully.
Huge downsizing, in addition to small changes, will require some rebuilding of the organization. It makes sense to make the rebuilding process as painless and seamless as possible.
There may be repercussions amongst the remaining staff, especially if the terminated employee(s) had an influence in the organization. A shift in the workload will take place for the others who have to pick up the slack. Clients may feel abandoned. Whatever changes you make are sure to affect company morale. Consider the possible secondary consequences of terminating employees.
Mitigate the Impact
Mitigation is the act of lessening the impact of unpleasant or extreme circumstances such as those experienced in job termination. The way organizational change is introduced will affect the way employees respond. The way you usher a person out the door will have a huge impact on the way the employee and others perceive the company.
Will you ask a long-term loyal employee to leave his desk and exit through the back door escorted by staff? Or will you give the employee notice and an opportunity to transfer his workload and pack his belongings and an opportunity to say farewell? Which approach seems the most humane and with the least repercussions?
Try These Strategies
Strategic methods change-leaders can employ to mitigate stress and reduce negative repercussions of employee terminations include these:
- Validate employees while presenting the bigger picture issues so they can differentiate between their own worth and the company’s finances and business plan.
- Introduce change with clarity and honesty. Allow employees opportunities to offer feedback and prepare for a change perhaps learning each other’s jobs or becoming acquainted with each other’s projects.
- Express your own mixed feelings or uncertainty and do so with compassion. Affirm your employees and thank them for the work they’ve done for you.
- Implement change over time, if possible, so employees can adapt to the shift. Make time for employees to express their concerns.
- Do good research on everyone being considered for termination. Have the facts right.
Count the Cost of Terminations
Just because other companies are eliminating aging high wage earners doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Don’t destroy your business by terminating those who are highly respected in the field and bringing in the bulk of your business.
Wise employers will count the cost of letting certain employees go. Sometimes what looks like a smart decision from the outside is an uninformed decision. For instance, maybe Joe leaves the office at 5 p.m. daily, causing you to think he doesn’t work hard. What you might not know is Joe writes his reports twice as fast as other employees write theirs. Not only are his reports done quickly, but they are also accurate. And, Joe has brought in a fair share of the clients in the past few years.
Unfortunately, too many employers make quick decisions based on finances (or feelings of power) without knowing what the employee in question actually does that enhances the bottom line.
Terminations are difficult for everyone. Be wise and be tactful. It makes sense to protect your reputation and to soften the blow for the terminated employee.
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