How to Deliver Bad News to Your Staff

There is no easy or nice way to tell somebody that they no longer have a job. However, you’re in control of the situation and it’s up to you to do things right. The way you make people feel says a huge amount about you and your business. People will forget about what you say, but they won’t forget how you make them feel.

At this time, when lots of our clients are having to lay off staff, put them onto short term working or make them redundant, the way in which you do that is absolutely vital. So many of our clients are having to bypass their normal procedures and the normal consultation processes that would be expected under such circumstances. So, by doing things nicely, you’re less likely, although it’s not completely impossible, to have a claim against you in the future.

What do you do?

The first thing is that any news should be delivered face to face as far as reasonably possible. Now with ‘social distancing’ and people being asked to work from home, your face to face may well be over a video conference. There are lots of facilities that can be used including FaceTime, Zoom or Skype, but to actually be able to eyeball somebody, let them see the empathy and body language that you’re using is by far the best option. You’ll also pick up on their visual cues, which gives you a steer as to what you need to say next, depending on how they react.

The next thing that you need to do is to confirm any conversations that you have, in writing. When you’ve told somebody that they’ve just lost their job or they’re not going to be paid for the next four months, they’re not going to take in much information beyond that. So it’s absolutely essential that you confirm your discussion with them in writing; And that should usually start along the lines of …. Following our meeting on such and such a date, we have agreed the following, 1) boom, 2) boom 3) boom 4)boom. Lay it out.

The other thing that we’re suggesting is that if you’re not actually making people redundant, if you are actually just laying people off, then you give as much clarity as you can. When is this with effect from? How long will it last? And when will you review the situation?

If you are making someone redundant, tell them how much they’re going to get paid and when they can expect to receive that payment. Everything should be confirmed in writing.

This is going to be a really difficult time for people, so make sure that you get it right. We know that as business owners, you are struggling with your own businesses. You’re having your own panics, your own crisis (whether it is childcare, elderly parents or money), and doing the best you can to keep the business going so that there is a possibility of reinstating staff in the future.

When dealing with your staff:

Don’t let your panic show.

That’s personal to you, separate it.

Be highly, highly professional and put the needs and emotions of your staff, in front of yours, so that they hear a very clear, concise message that they understand, and they know with as much certainty as possible, what’s happening in the foreseeable future.

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