Is There A “Good” Way To Lay Someone Off? Employers Should At Least Try, But Most Seemingly Don’t.

In an era of people going ‘postal’ in the workplace as an expression of their anger / frustration or as a result of multitude of personal emotional problems, most companies have adopted fairly rigid layoff procedures as a precaution against such radical behavior. The problem is that these layoff tactics, including the element of surprise then banishment seemingly comes straight from the cold, empty heart of a lawyer who has no connection to the relationships that a company has with its workers.

Many of these employees have put in countless hours, poured their heart and soul into doing a good job, and have been highly productive and loyal workers… but then are wordlessly slipped their pink slip and hustled out the door in the blink of an eye. It’s a betrayal of sorts – like the employer is saying, “Thanks for coming in early and staying late after work every day for 15 years… thanks for never taking a vacation, and thanks coming to work because you felt a responsibility or an obligation to your work … but now get the heck out. We don’t need you and we don’t trust you now.” Sound familiar?

To be fair to the employer, hiring someone is a business decision, plain and simple. You need someone and their skill sets, they get hired, they do the work, you pay them. It’s a transaction. If those services are no longer needed, you terminate them.

But have employers gotten so heartless now that in the very same breath where they claim that the workplace is like a ‘family,’ is it so very familial to cut someone’s professional legs out from underneath them?

Good question.

A friend of mine was laid off recently. She’s someone I consider the epitome of class and professionalism, and is tops in her field. The company for which she was working underwent massive cuts, and in a surprise move, she was ushered into the boss’ office only to be notified that she was being laid off. Within minutes, she was escorted to her office, told to pack up her personal items and not allowed to touch her email or phone while pulling together her personal effects.

She was reeling. She was working on several important projects coming up for the company, and there wasn’t even the opportunity to pass on the ‘critical must-do’ list to someone else. She even had a meeting in 15 minutes with a supplier with whom she was doing business, and the company wouldn’t even let her call them to cancel the appointment.

That’s just plain crummy.

The real kicker: my friend takes exceptional pride in her professionalism, and felt as though her personal credibility was irrevocably damaged by the company not allowing her to close up shop in a professional way. Instead, the company’s lightning quick actions left a lot of questions with her professional counterparts… it brought up the specter of perhaps she wasn’t doing a good job (she was), but the mere fact that these business contacts were left without answers and even raised questions about my friend’s performance is just plain wrong.

Why aren’t employers being more humane about layoffs? Why do they automatically assume that every single person is going to wreak damage and destruction in the wake of being handed a pink slip?

I’d love to hear from some people on the other side of the equation on how they might have tried to be sensitive when laying off personnel. What should an employer do legally to protect themselves but also treat long-term, devoted and dedicated employees with the respect that they deserve after they have contributed so much to the company’s success?