A very badly handled round of layoffs
If you have to lay people off, don't do it this way.Follow @ITCatalysts
I appreciated your comments in this week's Keep the Joint Running ("What to tell employees, and how," (Keep the Joint Running, 12/8/2008, which described the importance of communicating compassion and pain-sharing, among other points - Bob). Here's how it compares to my experience.
When I was laid off in January my former employer did all it could to not express any compassion. They were, I suspect, concerned they might be implying something they didn't want to imply.
It was strictly arms length, both literally and figuratively, and cold as could be. There was a table to seat 8 -10, but all but three chairs had been removed from the conference room, two at one end of the table for the H.R. person and my boss’s boss’s boss and one at the other end for me. They slid an envelope of papers down the table to me so they wouldn't have to get any closer to me than absolutely necessary.
As I didn't know either one I tried to shake their hands at the beginning and end of the meeting, but they refused, putting their hands behind them or in their pockets. I can only assume they didn't want a handshake to imply any sort of agreement that wasn't spelled out in the carefully examined papers they'd already provided me.
We were told layoffs were coming and we were told not to talk to those that were laid off to the extent we could avoid it. We were allowed to speak to them if we were trying to learn their responsibilities, etc. but to avoid them socially, personally, etc. Little did I expect that I would be one of them. Of course, no official list was every published so how we were supposed to know who was laid off and therefore we weren't suppose to talk to I don’t know.
Supposedly H.R. figured out who was superfluous, and supposedly management had absolutely no say in the matter. No personal considerations were allowed to play any part, just cold hard facts. Of course, there was no indication of what those facts were, and no chance of appeal was allowed.
And of course, they said it wasn't that we weren't doing our job well, it's just that they didn't want us around any more. We even had some employees who volunteered to be "rif'ed." Two I know had already received offers from outside the company that were still open, but they were declined, so the company could axe those that H.R. chose instead.
Managers and even Vice Presidents in other subsidiaries who were looking to fill open positions couldn't find out who had been laid off to offer them positions for which they may be suitable. They could only speak to a person if the employee first came to them to ask about an opening. Of course they were all conciliatory when speaking about the former employees in general, but their actions spoke much louder than their words.