With the possible exception of the Donald, nobody likes firing people. It’s no fun, disrupts the lives of the people who are laid off and takes a toll on the morale of the people left behind. Unfortunately, it is a sometimes necessary evil, and one that too many managers handle badly. (Hint: try not to use a hackneyed speech about how tough laying off people is on you, like the manager from Bull Durham.)
Guy Kawasaki has written a great, 12 point article called The Art of Laying People Off. (Hat tip: Gerry Riskin.) This is the most intelligent, cogent and succinct article on how to handle lay offs I’ve ever read. A couple of Guy’s insights:
Cut deep and cut once. Management usually believes that things will get better soon, so it cuts the smallest number of people in anticipation of a miracle. Most of the time, the miracle doesn’t materialize, and the company ends up making multiple cuts. Given the choice, you should cut too deeply and risk the high-quality problem of having to rehire. Multiple cuts are terrible for the morale of the employees who have not been laid off.
Move fast. One hour after your management team discusses the need to lay off employees, the entire company will know that something is happening. Once people “know” a layoff is coming, productivity drops like a rock. You’re either laying people off or you’re not—you should avoid the state of “considering” a layoff.
Read it, follow it, and remember: the way you behave is as important to the folks being let go as it is to those staying on.