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The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition

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VOL. 42 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 2, 2018

Treating employees with a little dignity

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Part of my job is to work with professionals who have recently become unemployed. It’s incredible how many people are impacted by layoffs each day. Often, the person was let go due to something outside of their control.

Their company might have reorganized and laid off an entire department, despite an employee’s great track record of loyal service.

Ultimately, the company has to look out for its best interests. Perhaps it needed to eliminate a department that uses out-of-date technology. Or maybe it need to scale back operations in order to survive. Even though an employee is sad to lose their job, typically they understand this sort of thing happens.

This is the part that I don’t understand, and I’m not sure if I ever will; approximately 80 percent of those I speak with have had the same experience:

-- They go into work one morning and start doing their job.

-- Then the boss asks employees to come in for an unplanned meeting.

-- The boss informs them of the reorganization and tells them their job will be ending – immediately.

-- The person is then walked out of the building.

Company reorganizations are a part of life. The situation I just described doesn’t have to be.

Without fail, those who have gone through this experience are broken, often for months or years. They have gone from a loyal, productive employee one day to a hopeless, crying person the next.

Company officials seem to think this behavior is fine if there is some kind of financial payout. In reality, the sadness and depression the employee is facing is only partially about money. What it’s really about is losing their identity.

It’s about being walked out of their workplace as if they’re a criminal.

It’s about being suddenly separated from those they have considered their second family for years.

It’s like going through a death.

It seems there’s an assumption that a jilted employee might strike back. They might do something to get retribution while they’re still in the office.

I have never seen a single job seeker who was given advanced notice do anything other than be appreciative that their company gave them a heads-up.

Companies are slow to implement new strategies. This means that very often, big layoffs were planned months in advance. Months when the impacted employees could have been planning their next move, if they’d had more notice.

This time would not only help them plan, but it would help them avoid the giant emotional loss that comes along with being walked out of a building they have worked in for so long. Try to be empathetic with the employee.

Put yourself in their shoes.

They aren’t just a number.

Employees are people who have given years of their time and their heart for their companies.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.