The ugliness of layoffs and how to deal with it

Most of us have heard or read the stories about how the economy — both national and international — is falling apart.  The media is filled with stories about new industries wanting to be added to the bailout plan and how other countries are supplying the United States with credit.  So it should come as no surprise that many large companies have to let employees go, but how does one do that?  And how does a public relations person do that?

Shel Holtz has been in this situation before and shares his tips in, “Nine tips for communicating layoffs.”  Although his experience seems to have come from large corporations, his advice can be modified for those PR professionals working in small businesses.  Holtz stresses that communication between CEOs and employees and CEOs and stakeholders is important.  The access that angered former employees have to media, especially social media, makes it more important that PR practitioners and CEOs work harder to make layoffs go as smooth as possible.

Most of Holtz’s advice is common sense, although it is hard to have to fire or let someone go.  How would you handle huge layoffs as a PR practitioner?  What do you think companies should do?  How do you think negative communications between a company and its former employees affect the company’s image?

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9 Responses to The ugliness of layoffs and how to deal with it

  1. As employees are handed pink slips, an employer like a bank or a brokerage may be prudent to retain their e-mail records. The records are a valuable asset to the employer, relating to intellectual property, project management more. –Ben

  2. bkranz says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a “right” way to let someone go, but maybe there is some way to do it in a way that allows the employee to understand the company’s situation or predicament. Yes, there can be a list of so-called rules to follow or reference when calling someone into your office to announce they no longer work with your organization, but in order to better an already unpleasant experience, communication within the company is crucial. If employees don’t know that something is going on, that layoffs are expected, it’s not going to be easy to let them go. I think it would be important to have already stated to employees that there will be internal changes so that no one is taken surprised by the decisions that will be made. Like I said, there’s no right way to do it, but there is a correct way to operate an organization and definitely a correct way to internally communicate to employees.

  3. agilliam says:

    I think this relates well to the crisis communication we have talked about in class this last week. While it is important to communicate very effectively and appropriately with delicate matters like this, it is also crucial that you have been communicating effectively with them all along. As bkranz said, if they are unaware of what the company is going through they are going to be in more shock and be more upset. Having to lay off a number of people is a crisis situation and should be dealt with as such.

  4. brittz87 says:

    Talk about crisis–layoffs can be not only a personal but a company crisis as well. In any type of crisis communication is important–it is vital to have a company’s CEO be their spokesperson. In this day in age I have heard of horrible ways that employees have been “canned.” One of the ways that sticks to my memory, is being terminated via email. In instances like large company layoffs and newsworthy company changes, the CEO should appear to be almost attainable to the public and always speak on their company’s behalf.

  5. letsgoblogging says:

    Regarding the current state of the economy, I have heard many stories of industries combining efforts to dodge the economic hardships. Creative design, marketing, web development, advertising and public relations are just some facets that can be intertwined to save costs and resources. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will save people from losing their jobs, but it is a smarter way to keep your company on its toes during tough times. I wonder though, if mashing these areas of expertise into one, does that mean less overall effectiveness?

  6. davemerenda says:

    Communication should be an ongoing process that informs employees of matters regarding their employment. Weekly or monthly newsletters are a good way to keep people informed. No one likes to loose their job, but it happens. Clearly explaining why it is happening and advanced notice will help in softening the blow.

  7. cclark2 says:

    I think communication is a big key! Bkranz touched on the subject, that if the employees know something is going on, it is a lot easier to break the news. I think people will take it a lot easier if it is expected. Not that they will not be crushed or angered, but the threat of negative repercussions from employees will be a lot less.

  8. kakeane says:

    This is a good topic to see when looking in the face of a national economic crisis. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to let go of employees, and I think that a company should have the decency to let go of an employee in a similar method to which they were hired. Most people are not hired only through email or a text message. Most organizations’ hiring process includes personal interviews, and a company should make all efforts to give an employee bad news in a personal manner.

  9. amyfoley1975 says:

    I think there is a right way and a wrong way to alert your employees that they are going to be laid off. I do not think an email or text message saying it is a good idea, neither is a message with your paycheck. I have been laid off twice, once was with such a note. The other company did it right I think. All employees were sat down in the managers office. We were shown a message from the company owner explaining what was happening and then we were told the dates that we could expect to be done working. It eased the process a bit and made it an easy transition out of the company.

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