This week we saw yet another leadership change at the highest levels of our country. One day you occupy a senior role, with power, responsibilities, a full schedule of important things to do that you care deeply about, and the next day it is all over. You have lost all your power, status, perks, and unfortunately many of your colleagues.
While many of us watched this unfold on Monday night, part of me was reflecting on how similar this experience is to what thousands of people go through every day when they are made redundant. Often they have little or no notice, they go to work as Tony, Julia or Kevin did expect to come home that night in the same position. They are not given time to prepare for a change, to plan for life beyond their current role, they are not even given a chance to say goodbye to people they have worked with for years in some cases.
This process is brutal to watch in the political sphere with those who are used to taking a lot of knocks, but one can say they have put themselves up for these positions and it comes with the territory. But for the rest of us who are just trying to do a good job, lead the life we want and be treated with dignity and respect, being made redundant can be even more brutal.
So why do we do this to people? Why can’t an organization take a more humane approach to ending a relationship with their employees? The process of exiting people swift and fast might seem suited to the risk and compliance needs of an organisation, but does it really have to be that way?
Research shows that how employees are treated on the way out, strongly impacts on how they view their former organisation. Those employees often continue to be customers, clients, suppliers, competitors, shareholders and reference sources for future talent. What these people think and feel about how they have been treated matters. It matters to an organisation’s brand. It matters to an organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice. This is even more so important, with the easy access of social media and sites like Glass Door and the Vault, which encourage open and frank feedback on what it is really like inside a company.
So what should the process look like? Ask yourself how would you like to be treated if it was you, and then do that. Treat people like adults, give them notice and time, assume good intentions on their part, they will mostly rise to this, let people, process, mourn and get closure to the extent you can, and most importantly set them up for success by ensuring the right services are in place to meet their unique and specific career transition needs, not just a tick the box approach.
Politicians may walk away with a very bruised ego and time for self-reflection ahead of them, but at least they are mostly well resourced and connected and often rise again from the ashes.
Some people may never recover fully from the pain and trauma of a badly handled redundancy process. In many cases their redundancy experience can be the difference between thriving or merely surviving afterwards. Mental health and other social issues related to job loss, especially poorly handled ones, can have a much greater impact than the perceived risk of employee pay back on the way out.
We are asking our politicians to show leadership, be kinder and more respectful of others, maybe that is advice we should also be applying in the corporate world when making these tough decisions about redundancies.