Terminating the services of an employee is never an easy decision to make. Tougher still is the act of communicating to the employee that their services are no longer required.
Terminating the services of an employee is never an easy decision to make for an employer. The very process in itself evokes discomfort and a feeling of soreness, for both the employer and employee. Tougher still is the act of communicating to the employee that their services are no longer required. The very nature of this conversation makes it uncomfortable and difficult, for it marks the end of a journey for someone. Although several reasons can be attributed to lay-offs, especially if they take place in big numbers in today’s unstable times, employees are also often let go owing to sub-optimal performance. However, one needs to be extremely cautious in informing the employee of the same, and take steps to ensure that the process is simplified for everyone involved:
Before the Information is relayed
One should be aptly prepared before actually initiating the conversation. Dinesh Goel, Co-Founder & CEO, Aasaan Jobs says, “It is essential that managers go through all the past feedback and performance appraisals of the said employee beforehand, especially if one hasn't been the employee's regular reporting manager.” The manager and HR need to realise that although the decision made is a difficult one, it was made by the organisation. Urvesh Goel Founder & CEO SyberPlace.com says, “The employee's manager and HR representative should understand and be coached that they are communicating the company's decision - not their own; and therefore, should not carry any sense of guilt when they communicate this difficult decision to the employee. Such decisions are made by a team of senior managers keeping multiple factors in mind, usually involving long term business goals of the company.”
In addition to preparing well for the meeting, Lavita Nathani, Director - HR, Endurance International Group suggests that the HR team must honestly undertake the following actions before going through the process:
Fully understand why the role has become redundant
Analyse if the role-holder could add new skills to become a better fit for the new role or other roles within the company. This step is essential before the final decision is taken
Make a genuine and earnest effort to check for other opportunities that fit the person's skill set within the organisation
She explains, “Your role is to be able to communicate the above steps and their outcome as honestly and transparently as possible because it explains the role of the job role, organisation or business model in reaching the decision and debunks the idea that it was an individual’s decision.”
During the Conversation
It is essential to be tactful and firm when having the conversation about termination of services. Dinesh says, “Be direct and firm when telling the employee of the company's decision, while being polite - so as not to appear to have a personal vendetta. Briefly explain the reason behind the layoff, quoting past performance reviews if necessary, in an objective and professional tone. At all costs, avoid a situation where a negotiation starts taking place between you and the employee, since prolonging this conversation will only make a bad situation worse. Shake their hand and wish them well for the future before exiting the room.”
Urvesh Goel also suggests that since the employee in question is in for a tough ride anyway, company representatives communicating this difficult decision to an employee should not attempt to trivialize this pain by giving false hope, which often smacks of insensitivity. He explains, “The employee who will be disturbed with this news would most likely be in denial and would like to understand ‘what went wrong’. Company representatives should be coached that this is not a performance feedback session. There should be absolutely no discussion on performance - no encouraging words about how good the employee is or mention of weaknesses that s/he needs to work on.” Contrary to this school of thought, Lavita Nathani says, “While the decision letting people go sometimes is not in anyone's control because it's driven by logic and rationale but being respectful is completely in your control. You need to ensure that there is complete respect in how we communicate and how we help the person move out. We need to ‘enable’ them out by giving them the right advice, inputs on the industry, possible roles that they can try for or even connecting them to the right people, if it is a business led/reshaping decision to lay off the individual and not owing to individual performance.”
A large part of this difficult process remains to be seen through after the meeting is done and over with. As Dinesh Goel explains, “It is essential that you aid your employee with any exit paperwork, work handovers and severance payment as they exit to minimise any feelings of disgruntlement towards the company.” Furthermore lending them support, in whatever way possible is recommended. Urvesh Goel says, “If the company can afford it, it would augur well to retain a HR firm which can provide office facilities like a good internet bandwidth, printing facilities, uninterrupted power, video conferencing for interviews etc. that might be needed in their search for their next job. A facility for 3 months can be considered fair. This HR firm would also provide guidance with the job search. The employees should be allowed to be on the company's payroll (during the notice period) for the said duration to remove the stigma of having lost their job, so as to give them the confidence to transition during these 3 months.” Summing up, Lavita Nathani comments “Ensure that the individual does not leave your company with a low sense of self-worth. It's imperative that no explicit or implicit communication, which says ‘if you cannot be successful here, you cannot be anywhere’, takes place.”
Thus being well prepared, taking the employee through the process smoothly, and helping them support after, are the key ingredients to mitigating the damage of laying off your employees. Being clear and unambiguous in communicating the decision, without getting into last-minute negotiations and confrontations will benefit both the parties. The very act of laying someone off marks the end of road for someone, but the journey ahead can be simplified, if a few simple actions are taken.
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