A friend emailed me asking how she could better handle this, as a manager, which reminded me that this sucks, for everyone involved. The first time I got laid off, I didn’t cry, but the executive editor did, because she never thought she would have to lay someone off. The whole table ins usually uncomfortable, not just one seat.
When reported.ly ended, I had to assist with some of the communication to the staff. I’d been through this before. I’ve been laid off a total of four times now. But being the one who is giving the bad news is a whole ‘nother story than receiving it. But there are ways to make it easier, regardless if you are the one with the bad news or in the position of watching colleagues go.
Consequences be damned, help your staff
During one of my layoffs, top editors defied upper management and told the staff as soon as they could, rallying us to help each other look for jobs before the layoffs were even public.
It was a big risk to take, but the likelihood was that those editors were probably losing their jobs too, so what was there to lose? Whether you you comfortable doing that is up to you, but you can do more than say you’re sorry and hand someone a packet.
Offer to read cover letters, edit resumes. One friend I knew organized an HR professional to come in and help us answer the dreaded interview question: “So, tell me about yourself.” It took an hour an I walked out with a much better self-pitch.
Honesty is truly the best policy
Much like grieving, saying you understand someone’s frustration/anger/sadness at their new status isn’t a good idea.
You can say you feel badly, and explain as much as you can about why something is happening and the next steps. Be honest about what you can do for them, what the company will do for them and be ready to answer a lot of questions.
This applies outside of layoffs. Bad news is really best met with honesty.
Remember, it takes time to sink in
We tend to throw a lot of information at someone in one sitting. A box of tissues, an apology, a packet stuffed with pamphlets.
If you can, offer to help when a person is ready. They might need to take a week to let it sink in, and then be totally baffled by how to apply for unemployment. Maybe they’ll need help understanding COBRA coverage. Maybe they will ignore your emails with job offers for three months and travel the world, but then call you when they’re home.
I try to make a policy of messaging people and saying “I can do X, Y and Z. It’s an open offer for whenever you need it. No need to reply right away. Just know the offer is there.”
It’s less overwhelming to know that a contact or former supervisor doesn’t expect an immediate reply or action on something, and comforting to know that you’ll be there for them, even months later.
If you have other tips on how to manage bad news (layoffs or otherwise), hit reply and I’ll share with the group soon.
Great things I’ve read lately
Podcasts to listen to, based on your favorite books (Buzzfeed). How Googlers avoid burnout: mindfulness. (WIRED). Far too many adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. (Washington Post)
Jobs jobs jobs
Instead of jobs this time, I am giving you collections of people laid off this week. Hire them. Here are the Vocativ folks. Here are some (but not all) of the folks affected by the Huffington Post layoffs.