How to soften a retrenchment

Nobody likes to be retrenched, fired, laid off, or whatever term you choose to use for termination of employment, but if you're the boss, you can at least ease their pain.

Donald Trump is the worst example. In his TV series, it was simply "You're fired!" and he seemed to love it, but that's Donald Trump for you.

I've been the boss since I was 28 years old, so I've done a lot of hiring and firing. In my early days, I was a Donald Trump. It was by far the easiest route to take. Quick, final, and get out of my life. Thank goodness that I have matured since those days.

Here's my advice -

(1) Be honest about your reasons.

If the person just didn't fit in, stop and think why. He or she probably had talents that could not be put to maximum use in your company, a square peg in a round hole. Explaining this gently and respectfully to that person can actually motivate them to go looking for the right job for them as opposed to any job will do. I have had ex-employees tell me that leaving our company started them on a far more satisfying career path.

(2) Explain your predicament.

In these present times, it may be unavoidable that you must cut salaries in order to stop the bleeding and save your company. If you explain this with graphs or whatever means you need to demonstrate the reality of your dilemma, your employee will at least understand that it is not his or her fault and will be left with their self-respect intact. This alone will help them enormously to find another job.

(3) If the person is underperforming.

Chances are that they are doing something that they don't enjoy. I would hope that you already tried to find a better fit between ability and duties. If that didn't work you should acknowledge that most people are good at what they like and bad at what they don't like, so go to (1) above.

(4) If the person is overpriced.

This sometimes happens when someone has been with you for a long time, has enjoyed annual increases a bit above inflation and has been overtaken by technology. It's a tough one because they've been loyal and now, you're going to kick them in the teeth. Again, openness and honesty are essential to the person's self-esteem. Explain exactly where you are at, how you got there and that you can no longer afford to pay this salary for a job that was once important, but that has become less so as technology advanced. You can offer a change in duties, a reduction in salary, or a combination of both. The important thing is that your employee must understand, even if they are not going to forgive.

The person whose employment you are terminating will be hurt, worried and probably resentful. These are all perfectly natural responses. Your job is to leave them with their self-respect, because the chances are that their leaving you is in some way your failure, not theirs.



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