With a longer lock-up period and uncertainty about how long the vacation program will last, the UK unemployment rate will continue to rise in 2021, resulting in 2.6 million unemployed.
With work from home looking to stay here for the foreseeable future, employers are increasingly forced to bring bad news and let remote colleagues go.
One of the better known cases during the initial lockdown was Uber, which was criticized for laying off 3,700 employees via a 3-minute Zoom call in May last year. On the flip side, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was praised for his handling of the 1900 layoff announcement. How can employers strike the right balance when delivering difficult messages remotely?
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Anouk Agussol, founder and CEO of people consultancy company Unleashed, emphasizes the importance of communicating too much in these difficult times. She advises “make sure the cascade happens very quickly. You don’t want people to find out this is happening to their co-workers on WhatsApp. ”
Speaking of the Airbnb example, she said, “One reason Brian Chesky’s message was so good is that it was the beginning of a communication cascade and then it all happened very quickly from behind. It anticipated many questions and immediately spoke to those who are going and staying. “But what about smaller companies that may have only a handful of layoffs? Agussol suggests, “Your first priority should be to arrange messaging with the individual (give them as much freedom of choice as possible) and then communicate it quickly and with dignity.”
Empathy and emotional intelligence
Ben Branson-Gateley, co-founder and CEO of CharlieHR, reflected on his own experience of letting someone go remotely. He said, “The big worry about remote communication compared to face-to-face is that there are more opportunities to hide behind screens, emails and video cameras.”
His advice to co-founders is, “Don’t fall into this trap. Follow the process the same way you normally would. Do not be afraid of honest and open discussions. ”
In this time of heightened uncertainty, it is a greater duty for managers to show empathy and to devote sufficient time to conveying the messages. Branson-Gateley explained, “It is always emotional when you say that you are being let go. Take it as a human and ask yourself if it is me. How do I want the information to be given to me? “
Don’t just reach for the leave meeting button
Take enough time to prepare for the meeting. Planning a difficult conversation in the middle of a hectic day of consecutive Zoom calls may not be the smartest decision. Even if it may be removed, both verbal and non-verbal cues are still important. To ensure that you are giving your employees the full attention they deserve, you need to show up with the energy and mental range to handle the difficult situation.
Branson-Gately advises “being aware of what you look like in front of the camera – what your body language is saying. What you communicate is not just what comes out of your mouth. Give them time to respond, speak and share their opinions – don’t just reach for the leave meeting button. ”
Time is the best healer
The meeting itself is likely to be difficult and emotional, but communication shouldn’t stop there.
As Agussol recommends, “After the dust has settled, write a personal note or email. In order to verify the person, you need to acknowledge that it was not easy to do, especially in the present circumstances. Wish them the best and remind them that you are here in case they need it. “
Agussol suggests employers schedule an exit interview at a later date, as “a closure is even more important when you cannot do it face-to-face with another person”.
As the frequency of these conversations will unfortunately increase, remote redundancy is becoming the new norm. Still, showing compassion and empathy will be what defines employers and how employees perceive you not only today but also in the future.