How to lay off employees in a humane way and not crash them on the exit


It is quite normal to be waking up to the news of yet one more layoff from another company struggling to survive the consequences of this pandemic. The unemployment rates are spiking up with a blink of an eye and numbers of people being let go are between 10% to even 50%, and many companies filing for bankruptcy already. Many fear the possibility of becoming next. But how do we remain humane through massive layoffs?

Remember your values

Every person has values, so does the company since it is created by people. We often forget that people shape the culture and represent the brand. We used to talk about our work at the dinner tables with friends and family, we would spread the word of mouth about our companies often unconsciously.

I personally value trust, transparency, and respect. In the past I have even crossed some lines to protect my core values as they define who I am. Today they are my personal guidelines though those uncertain and stressful times. It is possible that your company is currently in the process of shaping new survival strategy and cutting costs fast. Values are something you have defined way before this crisis, it has even been your selection criterion when hiring people into your company. So why not stick to them? Use your company values actively – they will show you how to treat your people in a humane way.

Act responsibly

Everyone by now has probably heard of one company in California using Zoom to lay off 400 employees in a group call in two minutes over a recorded message. Hasty and badly thought through decisions have never done anyone any good. Layoffs are painful, unpleasant and difficult. They are to be handled with care and responsibility. Ripping off this bandaid is not going to be easy. Why not?

As social beings, we have a tendency to build relationships at work, become friends, some even create families. We develop this feeling of belonging to a social group through work. So it is important to let go of your staff without crushing them on the way out. I still remember my first employment contract termination where the final sentence stated that “we part our ways in a good understanding”. It was painful and sad for me to leave, so it was for my managers to let me go, but it was handled with care, which helped me survive and move on. Don’t just say you care about people, show how you care about them. Act responsibly while letting them go today, so they can move forward towards a better tomorrow. And remember, it will be emotionally draining especially if the numbers are high, so it is okey to show some emotion.

Finally, with rapid growth of AI and tech we are even teaching computers and robots not only understand empathy and emotion, but show it. We are still people working with people, why do we forbid ourselves to show emotion while teaching robots to do so?

Article originally published on LinkedIn here.

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