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The uncertainty surrounding our current global health crisis has disrupted business operations worldwide. It's unclear when things will go back to normal or what that might look like. With companies in a precarious position, it's important to consider that drastic measures may be on the way.
Coincidentally, the story for this week is about layoffs. So what do you do if your boss asks you to rate your peers for layoffs? And what would a better boss do?
In this week’s two-minute newsletter, we talk about how treating layoffs as exceptional, short term events is a recipe for failure. For more, check out our podcast episode.
Consider this experience
I regularly rate the calls of my subordinates. Last year, my supervisor wanted me to rate the calls of my peers as well and report to him without their knowledge.
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He said he was looking to "trim the fat" and lay off coworkers, and wanted an idea of how they were all doing. I asked him if someone else could do it and he said because of my excellent track record, I was the best person for the job.
I was reluctant but rated all of my co-workers. A month later, my co-workers were laid off.
Layoffs are always a possibility
. Out of sight, out of mind, until they catch us (managers included) off guard. Why do we see layoffs as a short-term “trimming the fat” exercise instead of something with indefinite cultural consequences? And why aren’t we more prepared when they do
Managers: focus on continuity
Letting people go is a crippling experience, but keeping a team motivated and inspired during and after layoffs is the real challenge. Layoffs can quickly turn your team into nothing more than a house of cards. Why would the “lucky” few continue to invest their time in you and the company? As a manager, how you handle layoffs is everything to your team’s cohesion.
More than ever, people on your team will look to validate that they’re working for a fair, consistent, and supportive leader (and company). And in no way does delegating layoff decisions align with that: you’re putting someone that works for you into a legally, ethically, and emotionally compromising position. Can someone belonging to a group targeted for layoffs offer a completely impartial assessment? Is the (potential) lawsuit worth it?
The easiest thing you can do is be fair, consistent, and supportive long before layoffs are a consideration. Communicate the skills that create value for your company and help the people that report to you develop them. An easy way to go about this is to have everyone on the team critically review a different person’s work every week and discuss the results in small group settings. Your team gets a consistent feedback loop, and you have what you need to make and communicate personnel decisions at a moment’s notice.
Contributors: don't compromise
If your manager does ask you to rate peers, say something like this:
Hey Joe, I’m flattered that you value my opinion on something this important, but asking me to assess my peers for layoffs could put us all into a compromising legal situation. There’s no way for me to realistically be impartial, and the company could be held liable. I can share how I would rate and review my own performance, but I’m not comfortable putting myself or the company into that position.
Everyone: expect layoffsHave a plan in place for yourself so that you’re not scrambling to build a parachute when you need one. What would you do if you were let go? What would you need? More intros? An updated resume? Ask yourself these questions and take your first step towards building your own contingency plan. Reassess where you are every few months to keep things fresh.
And recognize that when layoffs come around it’s probably time to look for new opportunities. Even if you’re not directly affected.
🎧 For more, check out this week’s podcast episode. And special thanks to the person who shared this story.
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