Here’s another article about crises in organizations. Here is: Crisis in the Organization: Downsizing.
It’s a rare situation in an organization’s life where it hasn’t had to downsize staff. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to be forced to downsize. Lower sales, a disaster, bank requirements, lower demand for the products or services, and seasonal issues are all possibilities. If you happen to be the leader that has to make the tough decisions to make those downsizing decisions, please know that these situations can be handled well with the right approach and the right perspective.
Be honest, be sensitive – but be careful.
Be honest. Remember that you will not explain everything, nor should you explain everything. Avoid making jokes, being flippant or indifferent, or make an attempt to get through the process quickly. No one in a stressful situation is able to manage content as well as they would like, and no one listening to the content related to a layoff affecting them is likely to hear everything as it is intended to be presented. With that in mind, be careful what you say and what you write. Never lie to cover up what has happened and what is going to happen. When you announce the decision to downsize, make sure you have definitive plans in place and implement them.
Don’t try to make promises that you either know you can’t keep or you can’t state with 100% certainty. Telling people that you’re going to bring them back in 90 days when you don’t know that for sure is going to get you in trouble. The local unemployment office, various agencies and non-profit groups, and lawyers who specialize in Human Resources matters may end up taking some interest in what you’re doing. If you can’t discuss something, don’t bring it up and don’t attempt to answer questions related to that subject. If you’re not sure about the legality of something you plan to do, consult with your attorney.
Be intentional with your decisions.
When you proceed with the process of downsizing, move forward with tact, determination and clarity. Carefully consider your decisions on each person. Remember that you are not just affecting the individual, but also their families, partners and even their friends. Give the message of your downsizing plans as brief and clear as possible.
When you talk to those who will be leaving, let them know when they will be dismissed and what severance package you would like to offer them. Consult with your attorney about the legal aspects of this process and ask how you need to put the packages together. Put the packages together and be on time with everything you promise. Not only will you maintain an honest approach, you will also maintain a good reputation.
Create a schedule of what is due and how you want to handle it. Speak with sensitivity, but speak with confidence. Allow people the opportunity to process this decision and to be effective in their career plans.
Focus on the health of the organization.
Even though you might feel that you have an obligation to be sensitive and that you need to hang out with people as they make their plans to leave, you still have an organization to run. Be careful about talking to departing employees. Not only can it be a potential liability issue, it can also be an emotional drain on you and those you speak with. Allow them the space to do what they need to do, and allow yourself the space to keep the process moving smoothly and professionally.
You need to move forward on your plans and to preserve profitability. Start the process of working on what you need to do to make the transition happen as seamlessly as possible by talking with the departing team members on how to make that happen. Realize that you control the pace and the schedule, and you also have some control over how much help you receive by being respectful.
Downsizing situations are no fun. Nevertheless, manage them well and with dignity. If you focus on these two traits, you can make this situation as minimally negative as possible.
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