By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
You walk into your office one Friday morning and sit down at your desk, prepared for a challenging eight hours. About an hour later, your boss phones and asks you to step into his office “when you have a moment.”
“Okay,” you reply. “I’ll just finish what I’m doing first.”
Fifteen or 20 minutes later, when you walk into his office, he asks you to shut the door and sit down — a strange order from a man who insists that his “door is always open.” Could a promotion loom or perhaps a special hush-hush assignment? Maybe an invitation to join him for a round of golf at his country club?
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“Sam,” he begins. “You’ve been a valued employee here for 15 years, so I won’t beat around the bush. The company has decided to realign its priorities and, unfortunately, your position has been eliminated.” When he hands you a packet of documents prepared by HR, you know this is no sudden impulse on his part.
Bam, boom! Suddenly you’re a valued employee no more. In the vernacular, you’re out on the street. You are speechless. Incredulous. You want to say something, but what?
“Take your time clearing out your desk and gathering your personal belongings. It’s best that you leave the building as soon as possible,” your boss advises. “That way, you can at least enjoy a long weekend.”
Is that a joke? A feeble attempt to ease the sudden rush of job loss that you feel but cannot believe?
Job Loss Is a Common Scenario for Many Workers
Scenes like this one are more common than most people realize. Whether it’s one firing or a mass layoff, increasing numbers of companies are “downsizing,” to use a popular euphemism.
Here are some recent examples from 2018:
- The semiconductor company Broadcom laid off 1,100 workers when it acquired its competitor Brocade for $5.5 billion.
- Toymaker Mattel announced it was laying off 22 percent of its workforce, about 2,200 employees.
- Well-known consumer goods manufacturer Kimberly-Clark slashed $2 billion in costs by shedding about 5,000 jobs and closing 10 of its 91 factories worldwide.
- Not to be alone, automaker Tesla cut its salaried-employee workforce by 9 percent. The result was that an estimated 37,000 managers and executives were shown the door.
- Earlier, in 2014, nearly 100 workers at a Ford plant in Chicago received notice of their dismissal by a robocall. When workers who missed the call or thought it was a Halloween prank showed up for work the next day, they found their ID badges disabled and were told by security that they’d been fired.
Sudden Job Loss Is Never Easy to Handle, But Don’t Lash Out at Your Former Employer
Whether it’s just you or along with hundreds of your peers, a sudden job loss is difficult to handle. What you don’t want to do – despite your worst impulses – is to lash out at your boss and tell him precisely how you feel about him and his company. Remember, in a situation like this, there is some dignity in silence.
Writing on the muse website, Elizabeth Alterman says your initial emotions on being let go could range from panic to rage to exhilaration “as you embrace life without a set routine.”
Dawn Rosenberg McKay points out that “sadness is not uncommon either.” She advises acknowledging that “you are now in a very stressful situation and your feelings are entirely a normal reaction to it.”
Four Ways to Compassionately Lay Off Your Employees
However, employers must be cognizant of what job loss does to people, especially if they had no inkling of their dismissal.
Jon Hyman, a partner at the law firm of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland, offers four suggestions to employers faced with having to dismiss staff:
- Over-communicate with all employees. Be open and honest in telling the company why some employees are losing their jobs. Explain how the layoff will affect them, including the timing of the layoff and the severance benefits available to those people losing their jobs.
- Treat everyone equitably. As best as possible, use objective criteria to determine who stays and who goes.
- Help people find new jobs. Consider laid-off workers for other opportunities within the company. Provide written job references and offer outplacement services to assist them with resume writing and networking opportunities as they search for new employment.
- Don’t just toss people onto the street. Under normal circumstances, you have no reason to treat a laid-off employee like a criminal. Rather, treat that person like a human being throughout the layoff process. Everyone will feel better as a result.
So, say goodbye to your close coworkers, go home and assess the situation at your leisure. You have a “long weekend” to get your spirits up again and start your job search.
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