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Treating Employees with Dignity

Image used for illustration only. – Courtesy photo / Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

By Angela Copeland

Part of my job is to work with professionals who have recently become unemployed. It’s incredible how many people are impacted by layoffs each day. Often, the person was let go due to something outside of their control. Their company reorganized and laid off an entire department. The employee had a great track record of loyal service.

Ultimately, the company had to look out for their own best interests. Perhaps they needed to eliminate a department that uses out of date technology. Or maybe, they need to scale back operations in order to survive. Even though an employee is sad to lose their job, typically they understand that this sort of thing happens.

This is the part that I don’t understand, and I’m not sure if I ever will. Approximately eighty percent of those I speak with have had the same experience. They went to work one morning, and started to do their job. Then, their boss called them and asked them to come to their office for an unplanned meeting. The boss informed them of the reorganization and told them their job would be ending – effective immediately. The person was then walked out of the building.

Company reorganizations are a part of life. The situation I just described doesn’t have to be. Without fail, when I speak to someone who has gone through this experience, they’re broken – often for months or years. They have gone from a loyal, productive employee one day to a hopeless, crying person the next.

It seems that the company feels that if they give the individual some kind of financial payout, this procedure is acceptable. In reality, the sadness and depression the employee is facing is only partially about money. What it’s really about is losing their identity. It’s about being walked out of their workplace as if they’re a criminal. It’s about being suddenly separated from those they have considered their second family for years. It’s like going through a death.

It seems there’s an assumption that a jilted employee may strike back. They may be doing something to get retribution while they’re still in the office. I have never seen a single job seeker who was given advanced notice do anything other than be appreciative that their company gave them a heads up.

Companies are slow to implement new strategies. This means that very often, big layoffs were planned months in advance. Month’s when the impacted employees could have been planning their next move, if they had more notice. This time would not only help them plan, but it would help them to avoid the giant emotional loss that comes along with being walked out of a building you have worked in for so long.

Try to be empathetic with the employee. Put yourself in their shoes. They aren’t just a number. Employees are people who have given years of their time and their heart for their companies.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

March 5, 2018

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Angela Copeland


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