Can you remember the last time you had to do something really unpleasant, that might have even kept you awake at night? Maybe you had to make a decision about selling a home you love, put an aging parent into a nursing home, told the 30year old it’s time to move out, or take a sick pet to the vet for the last time. Life is full of difficult and unpleasant decisions and responsibilities.

As an employer or HR manager one of the most difficult things to do is to tell someone it’s time to go. The redundancy process has been part and parcel of the world of work forever, there is nothing new in it and there are many reasons why businesses need to release an employee; from performance issues to downturns in the industry or a restructure after a takeover.

The challenge is to consider the perspective of the employee and how to make the process as smooth and pain free as possible. Here are 4 steps you can take to manage the situation for a positive outcome.

  1. Be clear about what is happening with the role

Technically, redundancy is the identification that a position and the tasks associated to that position are no longer required in the business. It is extremely important to be aware that a position is being made redundant; not an employee. If you can be clear in your own mind that the position is no longer viable in the business it will make it easier for you to explain this to the employee.

If you take an empathic approach and give good reasons why the position is not continuing, the employee should understand. This means that as an HR team member it is important that you have as much information to hand which explains the situation; so that you can answer any questions the employee may ask you. The more information you can give them the easier it will be.

  1. Be aware of the emotional responses you may encounter

Being told your job will no longer continue is not much fun for most people (unless they were unhappy), so be prepared for strong responses. One of the most difficult things for an employee is that a decision about their employment has been made for them, it is out of their control. If you can prepare for this beforehand, you can have a strategy in place. You are likely to encounter the first few stages of grief, that of

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Resistance
  • Acceptance
  • Help

It is important that you acknowledge this, particularly the fact that the employee has no control over the situation. If you can give them control over some part of the process, it will make a difference, so try and create some options for them to choose. If the employee is very angry they are likely to go home and tell their family and friends how terrible everyone is at the company and become very critical. That’s not good for them or the reputation of your business. You need to prepare for this and show empathy, compassion and consideration. This can assist with moderating strong emotion, particularly anger. Many retrenched employees say that it is the inconsiderate approach that upset them most rather than the situation itself. So put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would like to be treated if the tables were turned.

  1. Focus on the positives

In the difficult conversation allow time for the employee to get over the shock, and think about the implications. It might be distressing for a number of reasons. The loss of regular income when they’ve just taken out a mortgage for example could raise some massive fear.   Allow them an opportunity to express their key concerns if they want to and sit with it. They will probably need some reassuring, so make sure they know that you are concerned for them. Whatever they are feeling is totally reasonable, so don’t feel you have to talk them out of it. If this is difficult for you, try and brush up on some soft skills. Offering counseling or arranging an Outplacement Program, even for a couple of sessions will show the employee that the company cares and is willing to support them during the exit process.
You might like to ask them to reflect on their time in the business and think particularly about the positive experiences they have had, the skills and knowledge they have gained and the key strengths they have to offer a future employer. Encouraging them to think positively about the time with the company and then future opportunities will soften the blow and assist them to accept the current reality

  1. Offer support

The reality of terminating an employee is that a relationship is severed. For someone who has a strong bond with their work team the loss might be greater than financial; they may be losing a valued social network or tribe where strong relationships will be discontinued in its current form. It’s important to acknowledge this and look for ways to help them move forward. This might include encouraging the team to get together with the employee a week later or arranging some external support to assist with the transition. Outplacement specialists are experts in working with retrenched employees to ‘get back on the bike’ and to use the situation as an opportunity to re-evaluate; life, finances, ambition, dreams, career direction etc. For many people it is a catalyst for positive change and many look back and say they are grateful for the push, even though it did not feel good at the time.   The degree of compassion and support offered has a powerful impact on how the employee will experience the redundancy process.

At Harvest HR we would be delighted to chat to you about our Outplacement Services and provide assistance to employees facing redundancy in the future. If you would like to talk about managing a redundancy process if you are finding it challenging, we would be happy to support you to ensure it is successful. Coaching is also available to HR practitioners to develop skills and knowledge for best practice.

This blog was written by Meredith Telfer, Harvest Human Resources Career Specialist.

Meredith Telfer

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