Hey, I get it: The past year has been tough for everyone. Organizations have had to make hard decisions. But even the worst news—“We have to eliminate your position”—can be handled intelligently and compassionately.

That’s why it was so disappointing to hear my friend Sarah’s story. She works at a company that suffered a significant decline in business in 2020. And sometime last month, leaders decided to eliminate 72 jobs.

Unfortunate, for sure, but what happened next was a train wreck:

  • Around 9 a.m., employees received an email saying that 72 positions were being eliminated and that those affected would find out during the day.
  • Sarah didn’t know if she was on the list; her manager (who was let go) didn’t know either.
  • So Sarah waited until 4:30 p.m., when her manager’s manager finally said, “You still have a job.”

The irony is this: There’s a well-known playbook for conducting layoffs—to treat those losing their jobs with respect and maintain morale among employees who remain. (You can read my colleague David’s blog on the topic or just Google “how to lay off employees.”)

I suspect that somewhere along the way, leaders didn’t listen to the internal communicator’s advice. So they stumbled their way through, creating a big painful mess.

Now, productivity sucks. Employees are disengaged. And Sarah is updating her resumé.

It didn’t have to be this way. Sigh.

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