Say so long, farewell… but with a human touch…

In the world of business, hard decisions demand to be made constantly. From start-ups to large organizations, to institutions and even as individuals, we are all at some point in time faced with the challenge of taking some hard decisions.

There has been some recent publicity on companies rolling out offer letters and deferring out joining dates. In the recent past we have also seen organizations laying-off people.

However, asking people to leave is not the debate. How it is done, is…

Most times however, these layoffs are done with utter lack of respect towards the individual (at least for all the years of good work, irrespective of the present day performance) and no common courtesy extended.

Take the recent example of how Harsha Bhogle had to exit the IPL commentary panel with no communication, context or reason provided!

Isn’t that fundamental, basic and the very least expected?

Leaders and companies have to acknowledge the ‘humane’ angle in the process of letting go and also approach the process more compassionately, so that an individual is not caught by surprise and has enough time to plan the next course of action. After all, in this world of ours, each individual has a lot of commitments and a decision like this can have a huge impact on their life.

Largely layoffs happen due to two reasons:

  • Performance issues
  • Company performance

Performance Issues:

This goes back to the core issue of setting the right expectations at the very beginning. Couple it with taking the right measures against those expectations, sharing correct feedback consistently (with data and facts) and making people aware of the consequences.

In most cases, when there is no clarity in what constitutes success or failure in a job – lot of chatter, perceptions, rumors and hypothesis start gaining ground…

In fact when any employee is let go without reasonable facts, there is a lot of speculation in the minds of fellow employees, which raises a lot of emotions and unwanted distractions. Everyone seems to have an opinion and their own hypothesis. The amount of productive time that is lost and the negative energy that gets created, is unwanted, useless and a waste of time!

When, all it takes in the first place is setting the right expectations and consistent communication, so that there are no surprises. As simple as that!

Company performance:

Layoffs in this scenario are usually driven by financial losses, wrongful planning, management challenges or just hiring the wrong people. In recent times we have seen examples of all these types.

Surprising as it may sound, there is not much to hide in these situations, within the company. We tend to give little credit to people’s intelligence. The secret is very seldom a secret and everyone seems to know.

In business, things do go wrong. And leaders are accountable for their actions. Even with all the best efforts and intent, things will still go wrong and that is OK. We have to remember that.

Sometimes it is not even about an individual or the mistake, and yet somebody has to take ownership and face the consequences.

In such instances, we do control how we pass the final message – of ending a contract.

So, what can we do for the things we do control:

  • Be honest and candid
  • Show respect and compassion: Don’t treat people like convicts when the message has been passed. We need to remember that there are other lives dependent on the one individual, like his family or other financial responsibilities. In such moments, compassion is key.
  • Be direct in your communication: There is no point beating around the bush, trying to be sympathetic or blaming them.
  • Make it private: This is one thing that is not for public show and display. Dealing this with sensitivity and dignity is important
  • Help: in whatever way possible. Try and pay to whatever extent possible and help by connecting them with contacts or other networks that may be suitable for them

To summarize, showing basic respect to any individual and not treating him or her like a commodity with a callous ‘I don’t care’ approach, is the least that can be done, if you do intend to layoff someone.

So, while we say so long, farewell… let us do it with a human touch…