Magazine article Industrial Management

How Not to Dismiss

Magazine article Industrial Management

How Not to Dismiss

Article excerpt

On Aug. 31, The Wall

Street Journal reported that a large and well-known corporation fired 400 employees. There is nothing unusual about this announcement. People are dismissed every day without much fanfare. This firing, however, was different. All the employees were dismissed by e-mail.

This is quite a message to be received when you access your electronic in box. Much like draft announcements from the U.S. Army that came via the postal service - "Greetings! We're pleased to inform you that you've been drafted! " - this was an unwelcome surprise. Such messages are devastating to the recipients. They are notification of life-changing events delivered in a most impersonal way. The method of draft notification can be forgiven. After all, we can't expect to receive a personal phone call from Uncle Sam. But shouldn't we expect something more personal from a corporation?

What was management thinking to handle such a sensitive situation in such an insensitive way? Did they think that a personal interview would be more difficult for everyone concerned? Did they believe they were so insulated from public awareness and opinion that they could treat people this impersonally and not feel repercussions?

Whenever a sizeable cut is made in the employee ranks there are aftershocks that affect the community within the company and the larger community in which the company is located. Families and local businesses are disrupted, and morale is negatively affected as friends and neighbors pour out their outrage for all to hear.

To say that the morale of employees who remain after a layoff is low would be an understatement. Certainly, there is enough fallout no matter how a company discharges employees, but this particular method e-mail-was so brash that it received publicity in a major newspaper. The emphasis of the article was not on the dismissal, per se, but the way it was implemented. And unfortunately, the image that comes across -that the company is impersonal and uncaring - will certainly affect productivity.

Much has been written about how companies should handle dismissals. When the final deed is done, communication must be at its height. The unwelcome and feared message of dismissal has to be implemented sensitively and empathically with individual interviews. …

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