Telling an employee you need to fire them has never been an easy task, and with the COVID-19 pandemic sending shockwaves throughout the global economy, many businesses, large and small, have had to lay off hundreds. or thousands of people.
Some CEOs have made their termination letters publicly available, while others have had theirs disclosed.
Overall, however, it was clear that these letters had been written in a spirit of compassion and transparency. Here are some examples of what they did well that marked us.
1. Recognize that just breaking the news with just a letter is not enough.
Firing someone basically means you are robbing them of their main income which they need to pay their bills and put food on the table.
Plus, doing it in the midst of a pandemic means you will be contributing to the list of 190 million unemployed around the world (as of April 2020) who are struggling to find jobs.
Just breaking the news in a letter and expecting it to be enough turns out to be indifferent to how your employees feel upon receiving the news.
When Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote his letter to 1,900 of his staff who would be made redundant, he made sure to declare that personal meetings for each employee would be held for a final goodbye.
In the next few hours, those of you leaving Airbnb will receive a calendar of invitation to a departure meeting with a senior manager in your department. It was important to us that wherever we legally could, people were informed in a 1: 1 personal conversation.
Brain Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, an online vacation rental marketplace
Likewise, Chatri Sityodtong, CEO of ONE Championship, said something similar in his letter when reducing the company’s global workforce by 20%:
Immediately following our corporate meeting, our leaders will begin one-on-one virtual video meetings throughout the day with everyone affected by this downsizing. We had hoped to do it all in person and face to face, but the current lockdown in Singapore has made it impossible to do so.
Chatri Sityodtong, CEO of ONE Championship, a sports entertainment company
2. Let employees know that layoffs were the last decision you wanted to make.
As employees of the company, they have the right to know what led to the decision to let them go.
A good way to do this is to detail the steps you have taken to reduce costs in the business before you make the decision to lay off people en masse. A good example would be the dismissal letter from Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun.
We are reducing operating costs and discretionary spending, suspending dividend payments, extending our current pause on stock buybacks, reducing or postponing R&D and capital spending, and speeding up some progress payment receipts with the help from our defense clients. Our president and I are also waiving our salaries for the year.
We have worked hard to keep our workforce stable, avoiding layoffs, even with the 737 MAX grounded.
Dave Calhoun, CEO of Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company
Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab, also did something similar in his letter.
To achieve this, we will cancel some non-core projects, consolidate functions for greater efficiency, and resize teams to better meet our evolving business needs given the external environment. We are also doubling our delivery verticals and redeployed Grabbers to meet growing customer demand for deliveries. We have been able to save many jobs thanks to this reallocation of resources and this has helped to limit the scope of the reduction exercise to just under 5%.
Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab, a multinational carpooling company
Dave and Anthony made it clear that they tried to cut costs or redirect the workforce to parts of their businesses that were doing well to avoid layoffs, although in the end that was not enough. always not.
As Anthony said, “Despite all of this, we recognize that we still need to become leaner as an organization in order to meet the challenges of the post-pandemic economy.”
3. Don’t shift the blame for layoffs to employees.
Acting as if you are hiding something is never advisable in any situation, and throwing the blame on others simply makes you come across as a terrible teammate or an incapable leader.
In many cases honesty is really the best policy, and that also applies to layoffs.
A notable example of this comes from CEO Henry Ward’s letter to Carta employees.
Once the lists were created, they were sent to me for approval. It is important for you all to know that I have personally reviewed each list and each person. If you are one of those affected, it is because I have decided. Your manager did not. For the majority of you, it was quite the opposite. Your manager fought to keep you and I ignored them. They are beyond reproach. If today is your last day, there’s only one person to blame and that’s me.
Henry Ward, CEO of Carta, a property and capital management platform
Henry himself took responsibility for the layoffs instead of saying nothing, which could have resulted in employees blaming their managers for the layoffs.
Another example of not to lay blame would be CEO Arnold Donald’s letter to employees of Carnival Corporation.
Your fate is not unimportant or underperforming, rather it is simply a matter of taking on an unnecessary role during an extended blackout in our cruise operations. We hope to call you back as soon as possible, when we sail again.
Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, an Anglo-American cruise operator
He made sure to point out that none of this was the employees’ fault and it was unfortunate circumstances that led to this difficult decision.
4. Be clear on how the decision to fire was made.
Part of making sure you don’t end up blaming the employees themselves for being laid off is detailing how the decision was made.
The letter from Airbnb CEO Brian is a good example.
Our process began by creating a more focused business strategy based on a sustainable cost model. We assessed how each team adapted to our new strategy and we determined the size and shape of each team going forward. We then did a comprehensive review of each team member and made decisions based on the Essential Skills and how those skills would fit our future business needs.
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb
By doing this, he let his employees know that it was not that their skills were of no value or not appreciated, but simply that their skills and what the company currently needed for specific departments. were not suitable.
5. Keep track of the next actions you take to help employees leave.
Words mean nothing without actions to back them up, and a good leader knows that. Employees know it too–that’s why a lot of them won’t care about your ending speeches if you don’t have anything to back it up.
For example, companies like Airbnb, Swiggy, Grab, ONE Championship, and Carta shared the benefits they offered to laid-off employees, including:
- A few months in advance of salary,
- Allow employees to keep company laptops for future jobs,
- Support for emotional and physical well-being,
- Health insurance,
- Insurance for relatives of employees,
- Employment assistance, such as setting up a site or network where former employees can more easily find jobs from other companies.
If you say you care, show them. Make an effort to find ways to help them make a smooth transition from leaving your business to be unemployed or looking for a new job.
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Even though companies want to keep all of their staff intact and happy, it’s unrealistic to think that layoffs are preventable during this unexpected pandemic, especially for large companies.
Ultimately, the company comes first, and if it can weather the pandemic, many CEOs have said they are eager to welcome laid-off staff.
- You can check out the other job related articles we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: AFP / Bloomberg / Airbnb
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