Downsizing: Best Practice Advice

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Having worked with a multitude of companies who have had to manage a downsizing, I have observed many negative approaches to this process. As such, I know of better and more sensitive ways.

downsizingThe goal is to relay this difficult message to an employee in a sensitive way in order to avoid negative or extreme emotions and reactions. The fact is this message to an employee (losing one’s job) is a negative one, but you don’t want to handle this in such a way as to cause outrage or retaliation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to handle a corporate downsizing.

  • When possible, avoid delivering the downsizing message on a Friday. When releasing someone on a Friday, chances are your business will be closed over the weekend. This is important because at the time of hearing this news, most employees won’t hear all the information being shared and thus will have questions a day or two later. If unable to ask you/the employer, they may turn to friends and neighbors, who could stir up negative emotions within the employee. Then by Monday, the employee may have become highly agitated. Therefore, consider releasing on another day of the week.
  • Give the notice in a private setting, as the employee could easily become emotional (crying, etc.) and should not be exposed to others walking or seated close by. You should also close the door for privacy.
  • Have tissues available and give the employee time to ask questions or collect themselves before leaving. Be sure the employee is calm enough to drive him/herself home safely, as well as confirm they have transportation.
  • Though some companies are advised by their lawyers to have security close by or even escort the released employee out of the building, reconsider how this would make the person feel – like a criminal. It may be wise to inform your company’s security of a release being planned for a specific date, but not embarrass the employee further, unless you have due reason.
  • If the exiting employee needs to gather their personal belongings from their work space, consider having them come back after work hours (setting a specific time) in order that the employee can collect their things without other employees present. You and/or a designated company rep can be there to let the person in and lock up afterwards.
  • Since most released employees find themselves in a blurred mindset with this news, it is wise to give important data/information that you verbally relay also in written form for their reference later.
  • You are highly recommended to hire a professional outplacement or career transition firm to assist the released employee with their job searches. This diminishes the “sting” of being released and helps the employee to move forward more quickly and with a healthier mental attitude.

All employers are encouraged to review these tips/advice in order to manage a business downsizing as smoothly and calmly as possible.

What other tips would you add? What has or has not worked for your organization in a corporate downsizing? Please share in the comments!

If your organization needs help with corporate downsizing, please contact us. We can help! We specialize in compassionate outplacement and career transition programs.

Robyn Crigger is managing partner of OI Global Partners-Compass Career Mgmt Solutions in Charlotte, NC.

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