Dismissing employees is a skill as well as a task
You can learn how to manage the process in a way that is clear and respectful
The physical environment in which you deliver the news should be a private, quiet room or office
Dismissing an employee is one of the most unpleasant tasks of management.
Here’s how to manage the process in a way that is clear and respectful.
1 Seek training All organisations need a standardised process for handling layoffs and everyone – managers and potential managers – should be trained in how to do it. If your company doesn’t offer training, seek advice and guidance from mentors who have first-hand experience of laying off employees.
2 Practice Plan out what you’re going to say and role-play how the employee may react. You should have a script, but try not to rely too heavily on it or you’ll come off as too mechanical and detached.
3 Consider logistics The physical environment in which you deliver the news should be a private, quiet room or office. The goal is to maximise your comfort in delivering the message while also granting dignity to the person who is being laid off. Your safety is another consideration. Make sure that the person has direct access to a door in case he gets too angry or upset.
4 Be direct Get to the point quickly and avoid small talk. Emotionally prepare the person by starting the conversation with: “I have some bad news to deliver.”
5 Don’t get sidetracked As the person who’s losing her job absorbs what’s happening, s/he might react emotionally. You, the manager, must not respond. You don’t want the conversation to devolve into a debate, discussion or argument.
6 Be compassionate When you’ve been tasked with laying off an employee with whom you have a good working relationship, it’s likely you’ll feel genuine sympathy for that person. In cases like these, assure him you’ll give a great reference or offer to introduce your contacts.
Most important, never talk about how difficult this decision has been for you. The employee doesn’t care about your feelings right now.
7 Decompress and debrief Once you’ve delivered the news, find a way to physically and psychologically restore yourself. Take a walk. Take a nap. Lift weights. Then, debrief with a human resources manager. It’s an emotional moment, but at the same time it’s a task and it’s a skill. You can get better at this. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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