I'm reading an interesting book, "Reality Check:The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition." It's Guy Kawasaki's latest on business, with a focus on startups. But the book is target rich on Work Matters issues. Chapter 77 deals with "The Art of Laying People Off" -- all four wise pages and 12 bullet point of it. A sample:
- Cut deep and cut once. This is good advice. The drip, drip, drip reduction in force just serves to suck the life out of the employees. If things turn around, Kawasaki points out that managers have the "high quality problem of having to rehire."
- Move fast. People talk. We are social animals who will yak away. The result is that, once a company even starts to think about layoffs, word leaks. It reminds me of the Shakespeare line, "tis done, tis best done quickly."
- Share the pain, but don't ask for pity. Kawasaki notes that the bosses also should take a hit, even if it's symbolic, to show solidarity with the workers. Don't take a bonus. Move to a smaller office. Whatever. He tells managers who do the firing not to whine; after all, they are keeping their jobs. I don't know about that advice. Survivors need our love.
- Show people the door. He advises letting people go on Friday (the weekend lets them decompress), then allowing them to finish the day or complete the next week. Maybe that flies in Silicon Valley but not in my world. I say lower the boom on Monday. That gives people the rest of the week to look for a job. Let them go on Friday , with business closed on the weekend, and they end up looking for a lawyer. But, other than the week of gracious easing-out, don't let those who have been fired stick around. They can rip off company stuff (I'm not talking yellow tablets here -- important stuff like client lists, etc.). Plus, they remind the survivors of how vulnerable they are.
- Give minimal severance.I think this advice depends on the company. But if managers do offer a month or a couple of weeks of severance, they should forget asking the employees to sign a release. That just angers the employees. And remember, a rejected offer of a release can come into evidence at a subsequent trial.
- Don't hide in your office. His final point is excellent. The temptation for a manager is to seek shelter post-layoff. Don't. Kawasaki observes that the remaining employees need to see the bosses talking, working, walking the halls and generally moving the company forward.
It's a great book and even has a chapter on "The Top Sixteen Lies of Lawyers." More on that later.