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Dealing with layoffs, what can you do?

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Maybe one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in your business management career is layoffs. Of course, if things go perfectly, you won't ever have to do layoffs. There are things that you can do to protect yourself from the financial problems that lead to layoffs; but that is another article. The sad truth is that most business managers will have to enact some layoffs at some point. If you do get into a layoff situation, here are a few tips to help you handle the situation.

Be upfront BEFORE the layoffs occur-the rumor of an impending layoff can be as traumatizing to your staff as the actual layoff. As soon as you know that you will have to do a layoff, hold a meeting and tell you employees what to expect. This approach will reduce rumors and it will allow some forewarning so that the actually layoff isn't such a shock. It is a terrible thing for a family when mom or dad goes to work one day, just like every other day, and comes home unemployed. Often one of the questions that people ask is, "how am I going to tell my family?" If your employees get some warning beforehand, they will be able to prepare their families for the possibility of a layoff.

When you hold the meeting to state that there will be layoff, it would be great if you could offer some criteria for the lay offs. This will help employees to understand who will "get the ax" and they will understand that the decision is based on objectives standards, not your personal feelings towards each employee. If you have a business website, it might be a good idea to post the layoff criteria, this openness will help prepare your employees for the upcoming layoffs as well as relieve the anxiety of the employees whose jobs are "safe".

Prepare an exit package for your laid-off employees-besides, "how am I going to tell my family", the laid off employee's next question is often, "what am I going to do". Try to help them with this question by preparing a packet that outlines the resources available to them as they go back out into the job market. They will need to know about unemployment benefits, insurance issues, how to obtain letters of recommendation, and possibly counseling services. Have your human resources department put together a packet for all laid off employees and also make sure that each employee gets to have an exit interview where they can ask questions, get feedback, and have their say if they need to.

If you don't have a human resources department or if your human resource department is small and inexperienced, you may want to hire a consultant or a consulting firm to help you handle the layoffs appropriately. As a business manager, you are responsible to your employees and you should do what you can to make their transition out of your company as painless as possible.

Handling the aftermath-think of your company as an organism and the layoffs as an amputation. Your company will go into shock, there will be major readjustments, as well as mourning for lost co-workers. The time directly after a layoff is critical to the success of your company. Things are already not going well and everybody knows it. You need to work to instill confidence that the layoffs were to promote the overall success of the company. You don't want the good employees that you have salvaged to start abandoning your ship. This is a time to be very honest and direct with all of your employees. Management should be visible and accessible during this time.

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