• Susan Fisher

There is no nice way of saying this, but....

There is no nice way of telling someone that they are fired. It doesn't matter if it is due to the virus, the market, your bad management or their abysmal work. It always hurts. It is possibly a manager's hardest communication task.

At this sad - no, devastating - time for many people I have seen plenty examples of careful and sensitive treatment but unfortunately have come across some awful practice. Here is what to avoid at all costs.

Case Study No. 1 - The Chat which is "not really" The Hearing How would you feel if you suddenly found yourself having a Zoom conversation with your boss accompanied by a member of the HR department discussing your future employment in which no written or verbal warning was given that this was to be the subject of the meeting? By law you need to summon employees to this sort of Hearing meeting in advance so that they have time to prepare . Ignore the fact that this is against the law in many places. If challenged the managers involved may say that this conversation was just as part of the normal course of running the organisation. But that is almost irrelevant. The real damage is how this would affect the trust between you and your boss even if your job is actually secure. Be super sensitive about any conversation about performance or work conditions at this time.

Case Study No. 2 - The Officious HR Department

The legal processes for terminating employment exist - hearings, consultations etc. but here - as in everything - it is the way that you do it. HR people see this as their job and this can be their opportunity to shine. But the officious and overbearing way that some HR technocrats can have of delighting in the process of the process is just not nice. This is particularly common in very large global organisations. There are "official conversations" which have to take place which are often scripted but here more than ever you have to sound like a real person. Official speak will not cut it when you are talking about people's livelihoods.

Case Study No. 3 - Not Just Your Timetable In one company people were told they would hear who was to be let go on Sunday morning. In the event there was no communication at all till Tuesday afternoon. Timeliness is the best friend of integrity when peoples' futures are being discussed. Do not promise an answer by a certain time and then fail to let them know by that time. And if anything happens to prevent you meeting your own deadline let them know why. Put yourselves in their shoes, speak with empathy and keep your promises. Getting this painful process right is not just about being decent. This is about your business survival.

In a year's time will the people still there in the organisation respect you for for how you let their workmates go?

What will those you let go be saying about you to online and off? The answers to both those questions will be your key to retaining and recruiting great people in the better times to come.