Layoff Etiquette for Goood Times and Bad


Is 2009 the year of the layoff? According to the recent employment figures, in December 2008 alone more than 500,000 U.S. workers lost their jobs. That number is almost 2 million for the last four months of the year. If the trend continues, you may find yourself on one or another end of a layoff. Here are some tips if you’re in the position of having to let people go.

When Good Employees Cost Too Much
It’s true that good help is hard to find. No business owner I know likes to let go of valued employees. However, the deepening recession has caused business owners and managers in many industries across the country to face the painful prospect of laying off good employees.
Steve Fox is a labor and employment attorney in the Dallas offices of Fish & Richardson. He warns that with “such an emotional and potentially perilous decision, managers should take pains to handle these difficult tasks the right way for everyone involved.” He says it doesn’t necessarily get easier the more you do it.

“Employers who approach this task lightly often end up with dismal results.”

I think it’s a safe bet he means legal trouble.

Proper Layoff Etiquette
While important to the bottom line, handling necessary layoffs in an unprofessional manner makes the whole process more difficult for affected workers and can significantly harm a business’s reputation. According to Fox, employers facing this inherently difficult task should take some basic steps to ensure that the process goes as smooth as possible for all parties:
· Decide what you’re going to say ahead of time. From a legal standpoint, employers are not required to give an explanation for why someone’s being laid off, but it’s often a good idea.

· Unless a company is going out of business, some employees end up staying and some are laid off. While no explanation is required, clarification is important so that terminated workers don’t believe they are being laid off for any reasons that are protected by law, such as age, gender, disability and race.

· Be compassionate and respectful. That means making sure that affected employees learn the news from you and not from the rumor mill.

· Keep the affected worker in mind when choosing the best time and place to break the news.

· Have a witness to observe all communications during the process.
Following these rules will not only result in a better workplace morale and less emotional strife, but also may save you from a lawsuit. They’re good reminders for all economic times – good and bad.

Image Credit: latch.r, Flickr