Leadership & Productivity

Dr Lynda Shaw explains how bosses should deal with redundancy
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How SME bosses can deal with redundancy well

5 Mins

Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist writes exclusively for Real Business on how bosses should handle redundancy well.

Lockdown has massively impacted our economy and a huge spike of redundancies is expected to be just around the corner. Anyone who has previously experienced redundancy knows how difficult this experience is. Here are some tips for bosses on how to handle redundancies as well as possible.

Be transparent about the situation and the reasons

Very clearly explain the genuine business reasons for the redundancy as it may help your employee (s) accept the decision with greater ease and assist them when seeking new work. The more clarity about how, when, why and what shape the redundancy will take, the easier it will be for the employee (s) and your business.

Address the whole team

Even a single redundancy can affect the entire team including people may feel anxious about their own job security when they need not be. Make sure you are open and honestly communicating and if there is a possibility of future redundancies after an initial round, let your team know. Keep them informed and up to date about the how well the company is doing, and make sure they know they can come to you with any worries or questions they may have.

Be authentic

Be careful what you say and how you say it. I know of businesses who told their staff they have been made redundant by email whilst offering their sincere heart-felt condolences. Mean what you say and understand this can be a life-changing moment for your employee.

Be fair in the selection process

It is crucial to make sure you’re being as fair as possible  by making sure the selection process has been dealt with well. Consider the strengths and flaws of every staff member and ensure your selection process is not influenced by social factors such as a staff member’s age or gender. If you get it wrong then you might unnecessarily have to withdraw the redundancy thereby putting your employee through a lot of anxiety. Make sure you have made the right decisions from the start.

Know your message well

Any discomfort about the situation may lead you to deliver the news in a quick and perfunctory way. Be confident, understanding and genuine when delivering the news to your employee (s), so they grasp that this is an informed and well thought out decision. Prepare some answers to difficult potential questions.

Deal with anxiety

Stress and anxiety mean the stress hormone cortisol suppresses neurotransmitters, which can impair memory, appetite, sleep, motivation and much more. Accept that things might not feel ‘normal’ in the office for a while as everyone affected comes to terms with the situation.

Prepare yourself to be emotionally available

You are giving upsetting news, and you must prepare yourself for a potentially emotional response. Emotions can range from anger, sadness or shock, and it is vital you handle the situation delicately. Remain professional and calm without being condescending.

Allow for privacy and dignity.

Ask your employee how they would like to manage the rest of their day, would they like a private space to compose themselves and digest the information? Or would they prefer to go home and discuss options with their family? Do not discuss anything in front of other employees and be as discreet as possible to give them the space they need.

Give them all the facts

Let staff know about their right to appeal. Employees can appeal if they feel they think they are being dismissed unfairly. Offer them all the information available when delivering the news. For instance give them contact details of people they can seek advice from if they so wish.

Help with re-employment

Handling redundancy well will help you maintain a reputation as a good employer. You have a duty of care for all your employees. Go through their options with them, highlight their key transferrable skills, and offer some new career path options. Explain that you will assist them in their job search if you can. Provide some contacts who can aid their job search when possible.

Dr Lynda Shaw is a neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.

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