How can I support someone I have to let go?
22 April 2020 at 2:15 pm
The Xfactor Collective recruitment specialists Michelle Varcoe and Jenni D’Orival are working with many organisations who are in transition and change, and provide some great advice here on navigating redundancies.
There’s no doubt about it, redundancy is a dreaded word. Whatever the reason, when employment ends suddenly due to a restructure or downturn, it can be a challenging and painful time for all involved – the employee whose role is made redundant, HR, line manager and the team who remain. It’s something that no one wants to go through but unfortunately, it can and does happen.
“Be creative and think about additional ways you can provide support – perhaps you can allow the person to keep a company laptop or mobile phone for a set period of time to ensure continual connectivity and enough time to arrange their own personal devices.”
During this current period of economic volatility and uncertainty, your organisation may need to make difficult decisions about the way forward including reducing headcount, reducing hours, implementing a recruitment freeze, standing down employees and involuntary redundancies. If you are in a position where you have to let someone go, it is never easy, regardless of the reason.
Here a few tips that may help navigate this challenge:
Communicate the message clearly
When it comes to delivering redundancy news, there’s no easy way to do it. It is important to communicate with empathy, compassion and honesty. Use simple and clear language, be respectful and remind people that it’s not personal, but an important business decision due to changed or unforeseeable circumstances that unfortunately affect their role. Make sure the message is consistent, so everyone involved in the process uses the same language and conveys the same clear message.
Listen. Give people time and space to respond, and then listen to what they have to say. Although decisions are usually final at this point, people will have questions, and will appreciate being heard and understood.
Lead with empathy
Imagine learning your role is suddenly ending after one, three, five, 10, 20 or more years. What’s next? Do you have the confidence, networks and know-how to apply, interview and secure your next role? When was your last job interview? Would you have the resilience to immediately reflect, move forward and embrace new opportunities? Many people would answer “no” or “not yet” to these questions. How would you respond if confronted with a sudden change to your employment status?
As an organisation, manager and colleague, how can you provide support?
You can choose to engage a third party to provide outplacement support. This is a tangible way to show the employee that you value their well-being and support their career beyond your organisation. Outplacement programs help employees’ transition to new jobs and may include career assessment, psychometric and strengths reporting, review and development of a professional resume, application letters, LinkedIn profile review, interview coaching and more.
Outplacement services will help to:
- reduce the stress and trauma caused by sudden loss of employment, income, role and stability;
- demonstrate duty of care;
- provide practical support with job seeking skills and resources;
- provide health and well-being support;
- be a sounding board;
- protect and build your organisation’s reputation; and
- increase morale, loyalty and satisfaction.
Provide information about the employee assistance program
If your organisation has an employee assistance program (EAP), ensure your employees are aware of it and can access it. An EAP is a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological wellbeing of all employees.
Redundancy can be traumatic and is often likened to the grieving process so counselling can be useful for some people, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic when stress and anxiety levels might already be higher than usual.
Be flexible in providing additional support
Be flexible, and where possible, adapt to the individual’s situation. Be creative and think about additional ways you can provide support – perhaps you can allow the person to keep a company laptop or mobile phone for a set period of time to ensure continual connectivity and enough time to arrange their own personal devices. Apart from mandatory payouts, perhaps your organisation can offer financial support to continue professional development, coaching or mentoring.
Manage yourself and others through the process
While your focus may be directed to support the person whose role has just been made redundant, it is also important to look after yourself as a line manager, along with your team through the process. For those that remain employed in the organisation, there may be mixed feelings of guilt, relief and anxiety too. Why them and not me? Is my job still safe? Am I next? For you and your team, there needs to be reassurance and a focus on finding ways to manage changes. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional support from your HR or senior leadership team and access the EAP too.
Ending a person’s employment due to redundancy certainly isn’t easy or something that you signed up for stepping into management. It can be a vital business decision to ensure sustainability into the future, and if managed well – with sensitivity, empathy and respect – it can be managed effectively.
Although involuntary redundancies are challenging and surrounded by negative vibes, they also present opportunities to provide supportive and engaging experiences. Ideally, you want to build goodwill, demonstrate your duty of care and retain positive relationships beyond their final day of employment. After redundancy plans are actioned, people will remember how it was delivered and how they were supported during and through their career transition.
Top tips for supporting people through the redundancy process
- Communicate messages clearly with respect, honesty and empathy.
- Offer outplacement and employee assistance programs.
- Thoroughly plan and engage expertise.
- Mitigate risks and handle with care.
- Manage health and wellbeing through the process.
- Thank people for their commitment and contribution.
About the authors: Michelle Varcoe and Jenni D’Orival are specialist business members of The Xfactor Collective, and as recruitment specialists they connect a diverse network, expertise and organisations that make a positive contribution. They help clients and candidates achieve excellent recruitment and retention outcomes.