If there's one thing we can agree on when it comes to layoffs is that they are the pits for all involved. That may be the only thing we can agree on when it comes to that subject. For the past couple of columns, we've all been debating the merits of how a layoff is handled. Some, such as myself, believe a company should not alert employees to the impending event until it has been completed. Others say we need to be upfront and honest that job cuts are on the horizon.
Readers have responded with great thoughts culled for not-so-great experiences on both sides of the issue. Here are some excerpts I'd like to share:
- "I have been laid off and communicating something like this in advance works better. It provides me with the awareness I need to filter my emotions. Not knowing makes the employer appear to be secretive, false, cold shouldered. When the layoff is handled like this, it makes for a disgruntled worker."
- "Having had to perform this sad task several times in the past couple of years I can say for sure that no communication is absolutely the right way to go. Two of my layoffs went without a hitch, not a word said before the events, and all the layoff staff were well briefed. The third was well planned but at the 11th hour it was called off. Unfortunately security guards had been hired at remote locations and someone forgot to call them back, the word was out of course in seconds! It took a couple of weeks to replan the event and the company was in speculative chaos until it took place. A well practiced plan, carefully chosen wording, and a caring professional attitude help make an ugly job a livable experience."
- "One of the worst experiences in my professional career occurred when our division announced on Monday that they would be keeping about 15 of our group of 75 software developers, and laying off the rest. And by the way, we'll tell you on Wednesday who those people are! As you can imagine, almost nothing got done during those two days of waiting. It was one of the cruelest things I'd ever experienced. As a manager I'm now on the other side, and keeping quiet is very difficult - giving people assignments and trying to motivate them, while knowing that they will be gone in a couple of weeks. I look at that as part of my job - but not one of the fun parts."
- "If a company expects employees who are leaving to give two or three weeks' notice before doing so, then they have to understand that they are implying they will return the courtesy if a layoff comes up. The first time this is violated, it will absolutely poison the root of trust and honesty, and it will affect the relationship between the employee and employer forever."
- "I'm not saying the company needs to tell employees who are going to be laid-off, however I think it is more ethical and better for everyone involved if the company has management pull their employees into a meeting and discuss the state of the company and it looks like the company may have to make some hard choices in the near future which might include layoffs."
My thanks to everyone who took the time to respond on this issue.