More and more managers are today having to manage redundancy programmes. One of the most difficult communication challenges they face takes place on the very day employees leave. Perhaps this is because the formal announcements can be scripted and prepared for, perhaps it is because "leaving day" combines informality, challenge, emotion and real, physical change in a very poignant way. (It is difficult not to be impacted by the sight of valued colleagues literally "packing up their bags" and leaving for the last time.) Perhaps it is because, as people walk out the door, decision doubts surface ("Did we really select the right ones?").
Here are some guidelines for the manager who has never been through this process before.
Be visible and meet with your employees to reassure them. Don't disappear after separation interviews.
Prepare an encouraging message which combines the “heart and the mind” aspects of what is happening, emphasises the local targets and positive actions in the market and business but don't give pep talks that ignore issues or feelings.
Do “sell the problem” which caused the action, i.e., costs, infrastructure, economic climate, requirement for a new skills mix and don't adopt a harsh or distant "business as usual" attitude.
Do expect emotional comments and don't make things more difficult by meeting or communicating only with favourite employees.
Think very carefully about anything you might delegate today. What implied messages could you be conveying? If in doubt, postpone the delegation.
Be specific about work tasks, expectations and priorities but don't load people up with work on the day separations are happening.
Do provide consistent information and don't make careless comments and use inappropriate corporate metaphors (e.g., “we are lean and mean”).
Do seek out rumours and concerns and address them but don't get defensive.
Do try to be clear about what is ending and what is not ending and don't be drawn into guesswork about unresolved issues.
Show empathy for all employees but never make promises you (or the company/organisation) cannot keep.
Involve employees in adjusting their work priorities and picking up on handovers and don't assume everything is okay simply because employees are not openly talking about it.
Do provide information, support and structure and don't speak negatively about associates who have left the organisation.