Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How are you laying off your employees?

NEW YORK - MARCH 25: (L to R) Former co-worker...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Sadly during these economic times, small and big business owners alike must make the difficult decision to lay someone off. The smaller the company, the more difficult the decision can be. How you handle the situation says a lot about you and your company and could affect how people view you in the future.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal these situations. Too often businesses will try to avoid paying higher unemployment taxes by avoiding the layoff and using other less ethical means to get rid of employees. I am going to give you some sad examples and one good example of how to deal with the situation. The first couple of situations are just acts of poor management. The other examples are worst as the just tend to be down right unethical.

Some of these examples happened to me personally and others are ones that I am aware of.

The first example happened to me shortly after I was out of college. I was working for a company out of Charlotte, North Carolina that was allied with one of the major automobile manufacturers. The economy was in recession so layoffs were necessary. The main manager of the business was the son of the owner and his wife was the human resources manager. No conflicts of interest there but then again it was a smaller business.

However, as I said the son did not have many leadership skills and was in the position because of his father. When the time came to lay off employees he did not have the guts to actually face the employees and tell them. Instead he made one the employees who was not being laid off and not in a real position of management to do the dirty work while he and his wife watch from a corner office. If you need to lay off an employee have the decency to do it yourself and do not make someone else do your dirty work.

The other incident actually made headlines when a major retailer laid off a large number of employees a few years back. However, the company got plenty of bad publicity in the way they handled the situation. Instead of telling the employees directly that they were being laid off the company sent them all email notices that they not longer had jobs and were to leave the building immediately. At the same time police officers came into the building to escort them out. Not a good way to handle a lay off.

While the first two examples is nothing but cowardliness and poor management, the rest of the examples are just outright unethical.

At a Oregon photography store, a person is hired to be a manager when the company opens the new store. However, what this person does not know is that he is only being hired until the owners son's best friend can take over the store and run it. After about a month the person walks into the store to buy some stuff on the persons day off to see the friend in the store. The son's girlfriend sends him to the backroom while the employee is told he no longer has a job. To top it all off they are late getting the last check to them and refuse to return some important contact information.

In another situation two locally owned security companies located in the inland northwest region of Washington & Idaho were merging. The company taking over the other promised to bring on a couple of long time employees of the other company which meant that they had to get rid of one of their employees. To avoid paying higher unemployment taxes the company spent several weeks trying to make this employee leave by making this employee feel as though the employee could not do the job. In the end they called the person and told him he was fired because of a customer complained that he followed company procedures on dealing with an alarm situation. It just happened the employees from the other company started that day.

Finally there was a employee working for a retailer and he was transferred to another state with a written agreement that if this person stayed for one year the company would move him to another location. However, new management was brought in and when the company was about to close down the stores in that region, they fired the employee in an attempt not to pay for his move to another area.

On the other hand I have to give credit to Gateway Computers. When they were suffering from the affects of the Y2K sales slump, they gave the employees the option of either being transferred to another division or getting and severance package. This way the employee had the choice of what they wanted to do.

As I said many of these examples are down right unethical. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle these kinds of situations and the better you handle them, the better your surviving employees will feel about you and your company. The last thing you want your employees that are staying to see is you mistreat the employees you let go.
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