Each day, all across the country, those who populate the ranks of upper management are faced with the challenge of getting others to do things they may not want to do. The very best of these managers are true leaders who have a talent not only for seeing the big picture, but also for handling present difficulties with tact and benevolence. Unfortunately, in the event of a layoff, what these leaders must do is get these folks to leave the company without burning the business’ reputation…or funds.
Regardless of the circumstances of the layoff, the employee is likely to hear, “You failed.” And that is a basic human fear. We will be escorting these folks to the door…but we need to give them a bridge so that they can leave with dignity.
That bridge is outplacement services.
Human decency aside, former or soon-to-be former employees are now lugging around a scar on their egos, one that—in their eyes—we put there. They may take to the Internet and let their frustrations and negative opinions of the business “fly” on social media, something that could have an adverse effect on the company’s reputation and future hiring efforts.
And if things shift into the legal realm, the company will pay—either to settle or when a decision on damages comes through.
Defending against an employee lawsuit typically runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could have been used to minimize the upheaval in an employee’s life by assisting him or her in transitioning to a new job.
The number of companies being sued by an employee or former employee has risen dramatically in the past few years. Commencing a lawsuit is relatively painless for the employee. What can make them think twice about filing that paperwork? How they are treated on the way out the door.
Whether you sympathize or not, these people are feeling powerless, vulnerable and scared. What it’s like when you feel powerless? Most likely, you feel the need to do something. For an employee suddenly faced with an insecure future, that something just might be a lawsuit.
Alas, a layoff situation is an opportunity for top management to shine as leaders by taking the long view for the company (avoiding litigation and reputation damage) and doing what is best for the individual (giving them as soft a landing as possible). Providing outplacement services to these employees will ease their feelings of powerlessness and anger. And people who feel supported and respected are less likely to sue. They also have less time for legal pursuits because they are actively engaged in creating a new work life.
If left to deal with a layoff on their own, however, the aggrieved employee will provoke issues of productivity and morale. Once the employee has been notified of the layoff, if not in panic mode, that person will undoubtedly be less than attentive to his or her daily responsibilities until they take their leave. If the person is not actually departing for 30 days or so, having an angry, wounded, unfocused individual come to the office each day will be less than helpful for the company. In fact, rather than spend time working for “thou who is now the enemy,” he or she will likely engage in negative conversations with coworkers, distracting them (costing the company money), spreading ill-will, and making others think, “Would the company do this to me too?”
If layoffs engender a decreased sense of commitment on the part of the remaining employees, then employee dedication may wane and show up in the form of lower quality work and absenteeism.
Another reason to offer this benefit is that individuals receiving outplacement services may require fewer unemployment benefits and fewer expenditures on health insurance premiums.
By offering outplacement services, you are sending several important messages to your employees and potential employees: 1) We don’t toss people aside. If you work here, we will find a way to help you. 2) We believe in your capacity to grow and create a new life. 3) You are not a failure.
These employees can walk out the company door and into a lawyer’s office, fully prepared to put their negativity and resentment into action. Or they can step onto a bridge where they are met with people who believe in their abilities and who can help them forge a new future.