A Leaders’ Guide To Ethical Layoffs

Katie Augsburger COVID-19, Employee Relations, Layoffs, Organizational Development

Layoffs are going to happen, and unfortunately for a lot of organizations, they need to happen in order to survive. Unfortunately, most will be done brutally, unthoughtfully, and impersonally. This is because we do not train people to end relationships. When it comes to layoffs, what we often prioritize most is efficiency.

But why? Why at the end of the employment relationship are we suddenly so lacking in compassion? In general, our society does not value the end of relationships, only the beginning. We delight in a “bad breakup”, we normalize treating ex-romantic partners poorly. We accept harmful communication when our personal relationships end and are shocked when this happens in our professional ones. We feel like the best thing to do is to make it fast, and emotionless. But who is that best for?

If this moment in our history is teaching us anything, it is that we are better when we are compassionate. We need to give our leaders the tools to be good employers, even, and especially, at the end of someones’ employment. We need to normalize compassion and emotion in how we think about and conduct layoffs. We need to center the experience in humanity and dignity. We need to acknowledge that decisions like ending employment can have an unequal impact based on inequities that exist inside and outside of our organizations.

We need to lead with our values even when it is the most difficult.  Click here for the Leader’s Guide for Ethical Layoffs I put together.  While many have already faced this, many are on the verge of making additional tough decisions. I hope it helps.