Do you tell employees about potential layoffs?

Here is the dilemma, you are a middle level manager, and changes or potential layoffs are coming to the organization that could possible have an impact on your employees’ lives.  You were told by upper level management not to disclose anything as yet, what do you do?

I think it’s ok to disclose some information, and here is why:

  1. Imagine that you were in your employees’ shoes, and about to make some big purchase or decision, wouldn’t you want to know that layoffs could be coming?
  2. Secondly, I think trust is very important.  If you want to maintain the trust of you team, they need to know that you care about them, and not just about the talking points of the management team.
  3. There might be rumors going around the company, and if asked, and you lie, eventually when the layoffs come, that would not be good for your relationship with the remaining team members.  You would either look like a liar or a fool, not to be trusted.

So now that we have gone over the reasons to disclose some information, how do you go about doing it without causing panic and work disruption?

  1. First of all, be honest with your team, let them you that you cannot share all the details, but you want to inform that that some “changes” are coming.  Don’t use the word layoffs!
  2. Identify with them by sharing your concerns as well, and that you too might be vulnerable (one never knows!)
  3. Let them know that you value them and so does the company, so whatever happens, you and the company will try your best to get them a fair deal, and try to keep their talents in house; after-all, the company has invested time and money in training each of them.
  4. If you know that someone on your team will definitely be affected by the layoffs, there is no need to share that specific piece of information.  This may cause problems for you and the company later, as you would be giving a heads-up to one person.  What about others from other teams?  Be careful here!  Just saying some change is coming is sufficient to trigger actions in employees if they feel the need to look around for new positions.
  5. Offer your support for internal placement to all on your team whether it’s needed or not.  Let them know that if anything happens you will support them as best you can.  Don’t promise another job or retention, as this could be potentially out of your control.
  6. Don’t ask your employees to keep secrets, however, ask them not to disclose to other teams, as you’d prefer others to learn of the changes from their respective managers.
  7. Since you are not keeping secrets, you need to inform your manager of you pre-emptive action letting him know that you thought this was best.  Hopefully you have a relationship in which he trust your judgement.

In the end, managing is about relationships, not just about work, money and company profits.  Treat your team as you would like to be treated by your manager.





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