With IT layoff announcements coming this week, employees are getting more nervous and many people are on edge. The time window is certainly shorter for this round of layoffs than the previous one, but waiting to hear if you're going to be fired is unpleasant in any time frame. Employees are conducting themselves well - I've witnessed only a couple of people acting out negatively. Many are frustrated with the process, and a few are angry. But practically all are supportive of each other and acting professionally. It's impressive to watch people handling this so well.
Similarly, I've seen only a small amount of questionable management behavior. One senior manager sent a long note to his group that said nothing helpful and added no value. He essentially excused himself for not sending a note sooner and then reassured people that management is working hard ensure that people get laid off on schedule. Of course he added the obligatory "this is hard for me too" line. A friend of mine often uses a saying that I think applies here: "if you have nothing to say, say nothing."
With very few exceptions managers have been conducting themselves well throughout the process. This is a job they don't like but that still has to get done. I'm seeing a lot of compassion and better sensitivity across the management chain. Some managers are visibly upset about having to give hard messages to their employees. The process in general is working well, which I'm not sure is a good indicator. Do we want to get better at firing people? Either way, I'll say again that I think it's being handled about as well as it could be.
Some managers may be trying too hard. There are a few messages being shared that really aren't helpful, despite the good intent. Some keep reminding us that "layoffs are only impacting ~10% of the organization, which means that 90% of us are going to keep our jobs." That's absolutely true. But 100% of the people are worried about losing their jobs. That message seems obvious and redundant, and feels like spin to try and makes us feel better, which actually makes us feel worse. For the one or two managers who may be reading this, my advice is to stay away from the platitudes. The best way to help is to follow the IT advice of informing your people as soon as possible and with compassion.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007