How S**t Got Sideways As Companies Furloughed/Laid Off People in the Corona Meltdown

Kris Dunn COVID-19, Employee Relations, Layoffs

There’s never a good time to impact people’s livelihood with layoffs or furloughs.

But it’s clear now that there’s never a worse time than during a global pandemic economic meltdown, when all of your employees are involuntarily working from home.

Shout out if you had to be a part of touch economic decisions at your company in the last two weeks. Prayers if you have those (or more of those) upcoming in the weeks and months to come.

Let’s pause and take a look at what’s been passed along as empathy efficiency across corporations during the communication process of layoffs/furloughs over the last two weeks.

Does it matter? Yeah, I think it does, Skippy. Let’s start with a couple of overarching principles/realities.

  1. You don’t do layoffs or furloughs in groups.
  2. There’s a special place in hell for people who pre-record layoff messages for groups.
  3. The “shelter in place” and “everyone is working from home” vibe of the white collar workforce during the COVID-19 crisis allowed people to rationalize some bull**** decisions over the last two weeks.

Got it? Great. Let’s break down a couple of high-profile misses in COVID-19 related layoff/furlough communications, some of which have probably been repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times:

First, it’s been reported that at least one company made the decisions to layoff 400 people during this time via Zoom, using a pre-recorded message to the masses. See the tweet stream below for the details (email subscribers click through if you don’t see it below), with the company denies and seems to be implying it was just a monotone delivery. Perfect.

Now, let’s assume that didn’t happen and it was cold delivery. That’s really the whole point, and it brings us to our second flavor of high profile miss, which I guarantee you has happened hundreds of times in the past couple of weeks.

Our second miss is this – You don’t layoff of furlough people in groups.

Yeah, I know. I already said that. I’m saying it multiple times because it’s kind of important.

How could you ever tell an individual they are losing their job in a mass meeting?

“Kris, these are unusual times.”

No sh**, Sherlock.

“Kris, we don’t have everyone in the office, thus the approach.”

Really? So you’re telling me you’d do the right thing if things were normal and you could see them? Isn’t the burden/ease the same? In normal times, you’d call someone into the office and have a conversation with them 1/1 in any layoff/furlough situation, right?

Of course, the video meeting gives you the same option. Wait, so does the phone! 1/1 attention in bad news. Privacy. Compassion. Empathy. As a much as you can given the circumstances, in a personal, private environment.

The Chad and Cheese podcast reported on Sunday that ZipRecruiter (human capital-related company, BTW) communicated layoffs to large groups of employees at the same time. They even have a recording of it. At the end of it, the leader says that HR will be in touch with each of the impacted employees.

ZipRecruiter, like a lot of companies, got it backwards. This type of news has to go out to individuals in a private setting. THEN you do the Zoom meeting with a leader to talk about everything that’s going on in the business.

If you’re a HR or TA person and your company laid off people like this, you missed an opportunity – to be an advocate to show some care to people in one of the hardest environments of the last 50 years.

Step up HR and TA. If it means you have to organize those calls to happen in a single day across 20 people doing the message delivery, do it.

Let’s be bigger than the crisis, and bigger than anyone in our company that just thinks it’s all about the numbers.

It can be about both. Good luck this week, my HR and TA friends.