Dummies Guide to Redundancies

Chances are, if you haven’t recently crawled out from under a rock, you’ve heard the Tech Mahindra audio where HR informed an employee that he was being terminated. I wish HR had been as polite as I am being in stating that.

Let’s get some facts out right away. These are tough times. Being lean is everything, ensuring your costs are tightly controlled is akin to Godliness. So the point here is not why Tech Mahindra needed to terminate an employee. The question here is not even Tech Mahindra – I believe they are merely one among many organisations, especially in the IT industry, that treat their people like commodities. The question I raise is this: Is Human a silent word in Human Resources?

How you treat your people defines you as an organisation. And since I am in the business of communications, here’s a dummies guide to communicating redundancy.

  1. Plan: There is no way you realised overnight that you need to terminate some colleagues, so ideally HR and Communications should be pulled into the room from the get-go. HR to help map possible relocations/re-allocations to ensure minimal terminations, and Communications to work on a robust set of possible questions you can be asked, and their appropriate responses. This helps ensure you are prepared to address the people and their concerns – and also that you have taken the time to understand what they might be thinking when they get the news. HR has another important role to play here – creating a fair exit strategy; you are taking away their livelihood and income, at least try and offer them a package that helps them overcome the sudden loss.
  2. Show some empathy/sensitivity: Imagine you were getting the call you are making. How would you feel? How would you like to be made to feel? Now go ahead and treat that person as you would have liked to be treated.
  3. Don’t stick to the script: Repeat after me – I am not an answering machine. I am not an answering machine. I am not an answering machine. In all likelihood you will have a script ready to narrate, but remember it’s not what you say always, but how you say it. Don’t repeat the same answers over and over again just because the other person is in shock and is repeating the question over and over again. Get off that script and make them understand this is your (the organisation’s) fault and show them that you are sorry. Don’t forget to apologise for putting them in this position. Thodi feeling lao!
  4. Respect: For however short or long a time, this person contributed to your organisation and made it their home. So the least you can do is get off that high horse and speak to them face to face. I can already hear a groan – how can I speak to each of them?! You can. If you bother to, you really can. And honestly, making the lowest common denominator make the calls/send the message is just you being a massive coward. Get someone senior or at least seasoned to speak to them – keeping them the main focus of the conversation. How can I help you? Would you like me to get you some references? and such.

This is probably not going to give them their jobs back, but it will make them feel like they mattered and this has been a difficult decision to make. After all, as Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

P.S: If you are an emotionally challenged person and none of this connects with you, then try and think of it like this; this guy could go on to much bigger and better things and you might want a job from him some day!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or any organisation. 

Madhavi Behl
Madhavi heads internal communications at a leading MNC bank.

She is a communications' professional with over 13 years of experience across consultancies and corporates; covering industries from entertainment, FMCG, telecom to financial services and banking. What she enjoys most is building a communication strategy that meets what organisations want to say with what stakeholders want to hear.

Her passion is finding creative ways to weave leadership objectives with engaging ideas and initiatives that serve the purpose of both - recipients and originators.

Her background and education in psychology and communication management naturally lends itself to her field.

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