As part of my job, I work with professionals who have recently become unemployed. Often, the person was let go due to something outside of their control, like a company-wide reorganization or a team-wide layoff.
No matter how talented an employee is, a company has to look out for its own best interests. That I understand. Most of the people with whom I work understand this, too.
What I don’t understand, on the other hand, is how the layoffs often happen. Approximately 80 percent of the laid-off professionals with whom I have spoken have had the same experience: They went to work one morning and started to do their job. Then, their boss called them into an unplanned meeting. The boss informed them of the reorganization and told them their job would be ending – effective immediately. The person was walked out of the building.
Company reorganizations are a part of life, but the situation I just described doesn’t have to be the way these reorganizations are carried out. Without fail, when I speak to someone who has gone through this experience, they feel broken. Often, the feeling lingers for months or years. They have gone from loyal, productive employee to crying mess in the span of a day.
Many companies behave as if giving a laid-off employee some kind of financial payout makes this procedure acceptable. In reality, the sadness the employee faces is only partially a matter of money. Mostly, the employee is devastated because they feel some loss of identity. They’ve been walked out of their workplace like some sort of criminal, suddenly separated from people they’ve worked alongside for years – people they may have considered a second family. It’s like grieving a kind of death.
Many companies also assume a jilted employee may strike back. Leaders believe that if the employee is given advance notice of the layoff, they may seek retribution. I have never seen such a thing happen. In fact, every job seeker I know has been appreciative of their company for giving them a heads-up.
Big layoffs are rarely sudden. They usually require months of planning – months when the impacted employees could have been planning their next career moves and processing the emotions surrounding the event.
Try to be empathetic with employees when layoffs occur. Put yourself in their shoes. They aren’t just a number – they are people who have given years of their lives to the company. Treat them with a little dignity.
A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.