18 Mar 2022

How to share news of redundancy

It’s a sad day for everyone concerned when someone has to be made redundant, and it is even more distressing if these redundancies are made en masse.

News of dismissal or redundancy should be conveyed in person, and only by note or letter (never by email, phone call or text) if it is absolutely impossible to find somebody to deliver the news. It’s bad manners to give someone notice of their imminent departure in this surreptitious way, and dismissing someone in person means that you can verify that they have fully understood what has happened.

Making large numbers of people redundant by a group video call smacks of the heartless world of Big Brother. Employees who have given years of loyal service are entitled to be treated with decency and respect. They should be given the privacy to digest and absorb the news, and should never be subjected to impersonal platitudes via video. This is an act of cowardice, designed to shield management from the understandable resentment and pain of a shocked and uncomprehending workforce. It also eliminates the ability of a newly redundant workforce to ask questions or voice their distress.

It has increasingly become the practice to sack people or make them redundant and order them to clear their desks, or workstations, and be gone on the same day. In some cases management have deemed it necessary to have the person escorted from the premises, and we are all familiar with the spectacle of dismissed workers leaving the workplace, carrying poignant boxes of possessions.

This is a sad reflection of the new pragmatism: it is desirable to clear superfluous people out as soon as possible and to safeguard the company against the danger of mass protests, unflattering media coverage, or the danger that they will walk out with crucial information about clients and contracts. The tendency to insist on a peremptory departure, frequently crudely and insensitively stage-managed by security personnel, shows little regard for their dignity or appreciation of their worth.

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