“Anybody who ever built an empire or changed the world has sat where you are sitting and it is because they sat there they were able to do it. That’s the truth.”
“I’m going to need your key card now.”
In Jason Reitman’s movie Up in the Air, this is one of the opening scenes where you come to learn what Ryan Bingham (George Clooney’s character) does for a living. He’s the guy companies send in to terminate employees when the boss doesn’t have the guts to do it. I personally don’t know anyone laid off in this way but talk about adding injury to insult. Being laid off is bad enough, but to have it done by a stranger…
The first line above is a classic you hear repeated throughout the movie as Ryan and other characters try to minimize the damage and build hope – the light at the end of the tunnel – for the person they’re laying off. I found myself wanting to believe that there was sincerity in Ryan’s words – that he believed he was helping even as he was being paid to be the messenger of death (of job security). Ryan explains it as “he is just doing a job based on a decision made by other people.”
Every day companies are forced to make hard decisions, sometimes reactive and sometimes strategic. Laying off people or even one person should be a strategic decision made with some thought and coordination as to how the person will be treated and how the message will be communicated – not only to the individual but also to those who aren’t laid off. Based on my recent research, “The Recession & The Millennial Generation” (white paper now available at www.sbrconsult.com), most companies are not measuring up when it comes to letting people go with dignity and respect. In these times of mass layoffs (which some predict will continue due to the recovery taking longer than we want to imagine), I wonder how many people actually have a good layoff story?
Who has a good story to tell about the honest and constant communication shared with all staff regarding a pending layoff?
Or a story about the sincerity in the eyes of the person sitting across the table as they delivered the bad news?
And who feels they were treated with dignity and respect and were actually well taken care of by their company post layoff?
Please, if you have a good layoff story – share it. You never know, maybe a business leader or HR professional will read your response and you will inspire them to change how they handle the gut-wrenching job of letting someone go.