You’ve heard the rotten stories about employees showing up at work, to find out they’ve lost their job. Next thing they know, they’re handed a box with their stuff and escorted out by a security guard. One person told me their escort kept his gun poised, ready to use if necessary.
The rise and fall of dot-coms has fueled a less direct, but just as out-of-line approach to letting people go. At one dot-com, an employee was sent to an off-site training program and while away, this person’s cell phone was disconnected, access to e-mail eliminated and their keycard made invalid. The employee was fired. But no one had the nerve nor the couth to tell him.
Other employees at this dot-com received a more subtle message that they were being laid off. They were at their computers when co-workers walked in and took the computers away. Apparently, management’s approach was not to actually come out and tell them they were fired-just ignore them until they went away voluntarily, say management consultants, The Herman Group.
Unfortunately, this is not a single instance. Dot–coms-many run by young people with little experience in how to manage people or knowledge of human resource practices-are consolidating and laying off. “Their ignorance of accepted policies, procedures and rules allows them to violate accepted practices, putting their companies in jeopardy,” says The Herman Group, and you end up with management default and this kind of abusive, inexcusable behavior.
Traditional companies also mishandle these situations by refusing to let people retrieve their belongings, walking them to the door and changing the locks behind them. Even if it’s company policy, in most cases, it’s not a very smart way to handle such a sensitive situation.
It’s never easy to tell someone they have lost their job. Seasoned managers agonize over it. They lose sleep thinking about what they’ll say and how it will affect people. They’ll tell you it’s the worst part of their job. But when you lead and manage people in a business, it comes with the territory. Good managers consult with other professionals and think through how to go about it in a way that’s not only sensitive to the employee’s dignity, but also doesn’t send ex-employees out in the world bad-mouthing the company and the people who run it.