Surviving Job Cuts: A Toolkit for Managers and Employees

August 14, 2012  |  

Image: iStockphoto

Contrary to common belief, companies generally don’t like to conduct layoffs. In fact, many managers recoil at the thought of having to call an employee into their office and hand them a pink slip. Nevertheless, layoffs occur for a variety of reasons, regardless of the size of the firm. Just yesterday, Google announced that it was slashing its payroll by 4,000 jobs, three short months after it bought Motorola Mobility. News of the layoffs sent Google’s stock up to $660.01 by the close of trading on Monday, a 2.8 percent increase. What the announcement won’t do is make the process of conducting layoffs easier for managers or staffers.

After handling layoffs for more than a decade as a human resource specialist, I have learned that there are steps you — as a business owner, manager, or HR specialist — can take to help your employees navigate the rugged terrain of company downsizing. It doesn’t take the sting out of having to fire people, but you and your employees benefit when you include the steps you will take during company downsizing in written company termination policies. As an employee, knowing what questions to ask about these policies if they’re not presented to you in writing is a good skill to have. Types of information to include in termination policies are:


  • Severance pay. Some companies pay employees a certain number of weeks for each year they worked at the firm. For example, you could pay employees three weeks of severance for each year they worked at your firm.
  • Bonus and stock information. Depending on the economy and the financial health of your company, these payment calculations can change. Collaboration between the  finance, compensation and benefits managers will bring about a fair and manageable calculation.
  • Vacation and Unused Time Off. State how paid and unpaid time off, including vacation and personal leave, will be handled should an employee be laid off.
  • Communication procedures. Identify who will communicate layoffs to impacted employees, such as a human resource manager or an employee’s supervisor. Regardless of who informs an employee, it should be communicated early enough to comply with state notification laws in jurisdictions where your business operates.
  • Outplacement services. If your company offers outplacement services (resume writing, job search tools, etc.), decide on the duration.
  • Most importantly, treat employees equitably and with respect. Managers should be trained by HR professionals on how to communicate the message and respond to employee inquiries.

Vision, focus, self-confidence and a positive attitude can help employees to navigate the changes that a layoff can bring into their lives. If it happens to you, you may even respond to a layoff by starting your own business.

Should you start your own business and hire other workers, you may find yourself on the other side of the table during economic downshifts. When this occurs, remember what it was like for you when you were an employee being cut. After all, the way you treat workers may be reflected in the way you treat customers. Treat employees with the respect you’d desire and you can keep top talent from walking out the door, allowing your company to rebound and grow over the coming months and years.

Rhonda Campbell, an East Coast journalist, is the owner of Off The Shelf radio and publisher of Long Walk Up and Love Pour Over Me.

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