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Layoffs: Working Through Emotions

Bottom Line

By Michael Gunther

Layoffs. There, I wrote it. They’re never pleasant, no matter the reason — not for owners or employees, nor for the person communicating the layoff. Layoffs, by their very nature, are emotional events.

And as we know, humans are emotional beings. So as business owners or managers, how do you deal with the emotions that come along with layoffs? How do you preserve relationships, both with the employees you layoff and with your current employees? How do you maintain a positive image and reputation in the midst of layoffs?

The Layoff

Be responsible. Don’t play the blame game, be responsible. Inform the employee of the facts behind the layoff, whether it relates to the economy or the company’s overall performance. For example, you may discuss steps the company has taken to avoid layoffs, and how this is a business decision necessary for the company’s survival.

State the facts, keep it basic, and allow the employee to respond, which will lead to the grieving process.

The Grieving Process

Be empathetic. The layoff of an employee is felt as a loss. With any loss comes grief, which consists of five steps: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

All persons affected by the layoff will go through some level of grieving in their own way, depending on the amount of loss they feel.

As a leader or business owner, it is important to understand the grieving process, allow employees to express themselves, and empathize and show sensitivity toward their feelings — whether they are the one being laid off or not.

When people leave, it changes the dynamics of an organization. People feel frightened for their own job security, concerned for the person who lost his or her job, and sometimes guilty because they are still employed.

By simply offering ongoing and open communication to your active employees, you can be proactive in acknowledging and addressing their concerns too.

The Outcome

Offer guidance and resources. It is important to let the employees who are getting laid off know that you care about their wellbeing. There are many ways to communicate this to the employee and assist them through their transition.

For example, keep in touch with the former employee to check in and see how their job search is progressing. Offer to be a reference, and even send a written letter of reference. These actions will go a long way and can allow the former employee to maintain a positive view of the company.

Since most people do not know what to do once they lose their job, you can provide them with resources, such as a list of local career centers and employment agencies or tools to help them claim unemployment insurance.

Although you may not be able offer a severance package, you can consider providing a 1-hour session with a career coach or maybe you can pay for them to attend a resume writing workshop.

Bottom Line

When your company is forced to make tough decisions regarding layoffs, maintain healthy employee relationships and your company’s positive image and reputation by tapping into the human element. Take time to listen to your employees and show them that you truly care.

This is another article in a series on Michael Gunther’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family and his belief in creating a growth company with a work-to-live mentality has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at: www.Collaboration-llc.com. 

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration, LLC, a team of highly-skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at: www.Collaboration-llc.com. Bottom Line is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media.

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