No one likes them. And the only one who really understands them is the employee and the family that has been through one. Laying off employees is one of the worse things a manager has to do, and is one of the worse things laid off employees and their families ever have to endure.
I am especially sensitive to employee layoffs, having had first hand experience as a manager and employee. I know the pain that laying off employees causes, the uncertainty it creates and the disruption to confidence and normalcy that it brings about. And unless you have ever been an employee laid off, you have no idea what it feels like. Empathy is only an attempt at understanding.
I just finished a wonderful book on the attribute of empathy titled “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy” by Dev Patnaik. I would recommend all leaders read it. He tells the story of Northwest Airlines who in August of 2006, sent out a pamphlet called “Preparing for a Financial Setback” to a few hundred customer service representatives and baggage handlers whose jobs were being eliminated.
One section titled “101 Ways to Save Money” is ridiculously out of touch and includes tips such as getting hand-me-down clothes and toys for your kids from family and friends, taking shorter showers, writing letters instead of calling and shopping at thrift stores.
However it is Tip No. 46 that is so clearly wrong, your jaw literally drops an extra foot to the ground. It states: “Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”
Really? Don’t worry about the fact that you just lost your job and benefits, and that your kid needs a tonsillectomy. Don’t worry about the fact that job growth continues at a snail’s pace and that you stand a better chance of winning “America’s Got Talent,” than you do of finding a job. All that stands between you and dumpster diving is a little shyness. Put your pride and shyness aside people and look at all of the free stuff you can find in the trash!
Unbelievable! So this is a warning for all leaders, though you may have not personally experienced an employee layoff, please have a little more empathy and class than telling people to overcome their shyness and begin staking out the best city trash cans and dumpsters. You have already kicked them to the curb and injured their pride in the process, don’t ask them to now dig in the trash too.
I would love to hear your stories. What are some of the insensitive ways you have seen employees laid off? Please comment below.
Other related posts you might like:
Layoff – Why the “C” and “E” in CEO should stand for Caring and Empathy
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