How To Deal With Layoffs As A Setback Leader?

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How you conduct yourself as a leader during a setback proves your mettle. A layoff is a current challenge the corporate leaders and entrepreneurs are grappling with at present. Want to know how setback leaders are handling lay off problem? Read on.

While talking to a cousin of mine yesterday, she mentioned that due to the current COVID 19 situations, her travel company has laid off many employees. All the impacted employees are struggling for the last five months to manage their livelihoods.

I know many organisations are finding it difficult to sustain themselves during this tough time. Travel companies are the most impacted ones.

Conventional leaders’ way

What caught my attention was not the layoff itself but the way the organisation chose to deal with it. Firstly, they kept their employees in the dark for weeks, without clearly communicating what was going on internally, making it difficult for them to take timely action to move on towards greener pastures. 

Secondly, they kept giving false promises that this was a temporary arrangement and employees would get back to work soon. Which further made sure that the employees were stuck, instead of focusing on taking actions towards their better future. 

Thirdly, when the situation went out of control, they stopped taking calls from employees and stopped all channels of communications. They didn’t even compensate the employees for the lost months, leave alone preparing them for this rude shock! 

Amidst the current crisis, this is not the only organisation that needed to layoff; many companies took the hard decision to lay off people. Unfortunately, many organisations dealt with this situation in terrible ways, making their employees’ lives even more miserable. 

Setback leaders way

On the other hand, there are a few organisations that genuinely treat their employees as their most significant asset, even when they needed to let them go. Airbnb is one such example.

Picture Courtesy: BBC.com

Yes, this is the toughest time for businesses to survive. Brian Chesky, the Co-founder, and CEO of Airbnb, were also feeling the heat of the situation. He needed to take some tough and painful decision of letting 1900 employees go in May 2020. But he did something unprecedented to let everyone in the organisation know what the plan was, why this tough decision was taken and how they were planning to keep people first even during this setback. 

His heartfelt letter to the employees made sure he was addressing this issue proactively and empathetically with utmost care. Outgoing employees got a severance package. Along with that, the Airbnb team took a few useful steps to make it slightly easy for the departing employees.

  • They allowed people to retain and vest their equity in the company well before the actual date. It helped employees with the essential liquid cash they may need to run their livelihoods for a little while longer. 
  • They covered all the parting employees’ healthcare through extending their support towards them. Making sure employees didn’t have the extra worry of taking care of substantial medical expenses in the already stressful situation. 
  • They set up job support within the company for other companies to hire parting employees. They gave generous recommendations to all the parting employees, making sure they secure another job quickly. 
  • They allowed their employees to retain their company laptops so that they can search and apply for jobs quickly. It helped outgoing employees focus on the job search without worrying about technology setbacks.  

Now, you may argue that it is Airbnb, they can do these things. What about small start-ups that are yet to see such growth or have a deep pocket. Let me mention one thing that Airbnb did which any leader can choose to do. And that is, to be empathetic towards your employees. 

Upgrading to a Setback leader from a Conventional leader

I agree it’s not easy to be a leader, especially when you are a struggling entrepreneur fighting to meet the ends. But you didn’t choose to be a leader because it was easy, did you? Then why would you choose the escape route when confronted with setbacks? Don’t you think it’s better to stay reliable, authentic, supportive, and empathetic so that you can deal with this situation in a much pleasant way?

Image Courtesy: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

If you must lay off your employees, and you don’t know how to go about it; here are a couple of ways you can make this painful task slightly more pleasant. 

  1. Make sure to be transparent and empathetic about such a decision. Communicate well, if needed over-communicate, please do not go into hiding because you cannot face them. Know that your employees would lose more than you, hence it is your responsibility as a setback leader to be as empathetic as possible.
  2. Offer the employees rehabilitation options, whether to recommend them for a job in other companies or developing their skills so that they can fend for themselves even after their layoff. If either is not possible, at least write LinkedIn recommendations so that it is useful for their future. 
  3. Make sure to take them through professional counselling so that they can cope with this sudden shock gracefully. It’s your job as a setback leader to make sure the laid-off employees are physically and mentally healthy to deal with this shock. You don’t want to end up with lifelong baggage of guilt in your mind because of a terrible irreversible decision taken by your departing employees, would you?

Lastly, I can’t stress enough to be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes. We are in a delicate situation right now as leaders, and it is time to show our mettle to prove that we are worthy of the respect that we deserve as a setback leader. 

Did you need to lay off employees from your organisation? How did you deal with it? Comment below your experience, you never know that might inspire other leaders to take out a leaf and apply in their workplace. 

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Author | Professional Speaker