The government is desperately trying to prop up small businesses, but with the coronavirus likely to rage across the country for weeks or months to come, layoffs are still likely for many firms. One new poll released this week revealed that nearly half of companies (47 percent) are contemplating laying off employees in the next three months.
But while furloughing or laying off staff may be necessary for cash-strapped companies, that doesn't mean leaders have a license to be thoughtless about how they let team members go. And many are, aggravated HR pro Kris Dunn pointed out on recruiting blog Fistful of Talent, before explaining the right way to tell your people the bad news.
Group layoffs are never OK.
"It's been reported that at least one company made the decisions to layoff 400 people during this time via Zoom, using a pre-recorded message to the masses," he writes. (A later update to the post reveals it was Bird. The company defended its actions by saying it wasn't a pre-recorded message just a robotic speaker, which doesn't sound like much of an improvement.)
While Bird is one prominent offender of decent lay-off etiquette, Dunn is convinced this "has happened hundreds of times in the past couple of weeks," especially given that many managers have the handy excuse of work-from-home setups to shield them from what is always one of the most unpleasant tasks of leadership.
But we shouldn't let technology or distance shield us from the responsibility of letting people know they're out of a job in a humane way. Even if you have to inform someone over Zoom, you can still do it with a modicum of kindness. Here are Dunn's essential tips.
Don't do layoffs in groups. A global crisis doesn't make showing a little humanity less necessary. It makes it more so. "As much as you can given the circumstances," give employees the news "in a personal, private environment," advises Dunn. You may want to follow up with a later group call to answer questions and discuss the future, but initial conversations should be done one-on-one.
Don't use a pre-recorded message. That's just really cold. "There's a special place in hell for people who pre-record layoff messages for groups," insists Dunn.
Be a human being. This shouldn't need to be said, but sadly, apparently it does. "Show some care to people in one of the hardest environments of the last 50 years," Dunn reminds shell-shocked bosses. Compassion and empathy should be the order of the day.
So yes, while layoffs may be a sad inevitability and you might be at one your lowest professional points at the moment, that's no excuse not to treat your team with decency and respect. Right now the best you may be able to do for them is showing empathy in how you lay them off.