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Monday, February 2, 2009

Corporate Lay Offs Require Sensitive Communications

By Shakira Brown -
Many business owners are facing laying off employees for the very first time. How you layoff your staff will have lasting effects on the perception of your business. Because of this, you must handle the dismissal of your employees with care.

Although there is no “good” time to layoff an employee you must prepare accordingly. Have a statement ready to give your employee in person and individually. Do not e-mail the notice of dismissal to your staff. Talking to the employee privately and having a clear conversation regarding the state of the business and your reason for letting the employee go is the best approach. If you feel you can give an honest and complimentary recommendation, offer to write a letter of recommendation for the employee. Showing that you are remorseful will go a long way.

Timing your lay off may not be easy. My suggestion is to avoid holidays. A lay off in close proximity to major holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas can create ill will in the marketplace. With blogs and websites setup for angry employees to blast employers, gripes from an angry employee can out live the rough economic times and permanently damage your firms reputation and possibly make it difficult to hire employees in the future. For example, laying off staff the week before Christmas will look extremely insensitive and create ill will internally and externally. There is no best time to lay off an employee, but you must identify a time that will not create ripple effects.

The most important part of your communication strategy for your lay off is communicating the bad news to the rest of your staff. No matter how large or small the business, employees will be shaken. After you speak with all of the laid off employees, have a town hall meeting with the rest of your staff. Plan this event in advance and have it within hours of the lay offs. Explain why the lay offs were necessary and let them know whether additional cuts will be expected. In addition, inform your staff of other cost cutting measures and empower them to come up with ways that your business can save money.

Recently, I heard of an instance where a manager sent an email memo to her staff sharing the names and departments of individuals laid off. This is not only an invasion of privacy, but it also puts a “face” on your lay offs. By providing names, this will allow your staff to ask questions and find out more about those who were let go. With names in hand, the employees can create rumors and add a different element to your lay off. Although they may find out the names of those let go on their own, there is no need to assist them in the process.

Sensitive communications is vital in getting through a company lay off. After your initial conversation with your staff, invite them to reach out to you or managers directly with specific questions. Let them know that you are concerned about them and that you are there to provide answers to any of their questions. Until the company is in better financial standing, plan a town hall meeting once a month, to provide updates and to allow employees to share what is on their minds.

Seize the opportunity to communicate with your employees. You may find that beyond these rough economic times, regular open forum communications may help your business. Sharing a consistent and positive message will help prevent a culture of fear and panic in your business.

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