- Although unfortunate, there are some best practices employers can use when laying employees off.
- Employers should lead with empathy when laying off their workers; if employees are treated badly during this process, they’re more likely to speak poorly about their experience through online reviews and to their network.
- With the labor shortage and job surplus, employees have the upper hand. HR leaders will need to adjust appropriately to this shift.
For employees, getting fired is almost always uncomfortable and upsetting. For employers, firing workers is also an unhappy occasion.
There are a few tactful ways for employers and leaders to lay their employees off, but this isn’t always the case – and empathy isn’t always used during the firing process.
In the first half of December, Better.com CEO Vishal Garg announced that the mortgage company would be laying off about 9% of its workforce on a Zoom webinar, abruptly informing the more than 900 employees on the call that they were to be terminated just before the holidays.
Garg cited market efficiency, performance, and productivity as the reason behind the mass firing.
“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately,” Garg said on the Zoom call.
Although unfortunate, there are some best practices employers can use when laying employees off.
Traditionally, layoffs have been cut and dry with as little emotion as possible, making employees feel like they were just another number due to how they were being disposed of.
Notifying employees of their termination is considered to be one of the most difficult tasks in business. Delivering what is often life-changing news creates anxiety and sometimes animosity.
The difference between a good layoff and bad layoff is all about how they’re conducted.
How should employers lay off staff?
- Find an appropriate time and location. Employers should ask when the employee has a free moment in their schedule, and plan a meeting with them either in person or over Zoom.
- Collect all the materials you’ll need for the meeting. This may include an employment termination letter, COBRA paperwork, a final paycheck, a severance agreement, and items related to the severance package.
- Ensure that you know what to say during the meeting. Be ready to talk about why the decision to lay off the employee was made, and prepare a script to help ensure you cover all the details you need to go over with the affected employee in a clear, professional, and empathetic manner.
What NOT to do when laying off staff
- Don’t open the meeting with comments on the weather, current events, etc. Don’t give in to the temptation to beat around the bush; no amount of small talk will soften the blow. The goal of the meeting is to deliver the news to the employee quickly, with empathy, and in a manner that allows them to retain their dignity.
- Do not fire the employee(s) in front of other employees, or in a group. This is humiliating for the workers and shows that you do not respect them or what they’ve done for your organization.
- When in the meeting, do not criticize the employee too harshly, or at all. Offering unsolicited advice is also not the best practice during this type of meeting. Getting to the point of the matter is what’s most kind.
HR might need to adapt to the changing dynamics of employer-employee relationships
The pandemic strained and tested the employee-employer relationship. Employers were called upon to support workers’ health, livelihoods, and dignity, and their success or failure to do so came under unprecedented scrutiny.
According to Deloitte Insights, 63% of workers that it surveyed felt that their relationship with their employer will stay the same or become a stronger partnership, while 86% of executives said they believe workers will gain greater independence and influence relative to their employers in the future.
Times are changing, and so is the future of how we work. Employees are now asking for more transparency and respect, among a multitude of other things.
Leaders should take the time to explain how the business is impacted by certain factors, whether external and internal, as well as what changes are being made and why they’re being made.
When workers understand the reason behind a company’s decision, it increases their respect and trust in the company.
The worst thing a company can do is blindside their workers and conduct layoffs through an email or mass Zoom meeting.
Employers should lead with empathy when laying off their workers; if employees are treated badly during this process, they’re more likely to speak poorly about their experience through online reviews and to their network.
Several other factors may influence the relationship between workers and employers, including economic growth, the use of technology in business, unexpected disasters, climate change, social divides, and health.
But it seems as though the employee-employer relationship is slowly equalizing; employers now need workers just as much as workers need to be employed.
With the labor shortage and surplus of jobs, employees have the upper hand. HR leaders will need to adjust appropriately to this shift.