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No one ever said every day at the office would be a picnic. Companies at some point in their existence experience financially challenging periods that require implementing tough measures, such as restructuring and downsizing.

Let's face it - downsizing is difficult, and it's not an activity that is perfected by repetition. So when confronted with the challenges of downsizing, it's important to navigate through them in a way that demonstrates integrity, compassion and real leadership.

By nature, letting someone go is unpleasant. It implies major life changes for an individual in your ward, and can inspire moments of anger and confrontation on their part. It can also disrupt the team morale, spread insecurity and confusion among staff.

With compassion and care, you can face these situations and strategically adopt what we at Vistage call a "carefrontational" approach; you can help everyone involved understand why difficult decisions such as these are made. Consider the following important rules when letting staff go:

  1. Don't avoid a confrontational dismissal by delegating the responsibility to your Human Resources Manager.
  2. Be honest and forthright about the difficulty the decision to terminate an employee causes.
  3. Present the business case for your decision, to ensure the departing employee does not feel personally targeted.
  4. Create a forum for open discussion and give the staff member an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.
  5. Don't disappear from the office to pursue activities like a golf game on the day you need to let someone go. If times are so tough, shouldn't the CEO be at the helm and not on the golf course?

If, during the process of letting a staff member go, you manage to earn their respect, understanding, and co-operation, you avoid letting toxic energy seep into your company. If during the dismissal process a leader demonstrates care and compassion, they are in turn likely to retain their own reputation for fairness and efficacy by those with whom they will continue to work.

A "carefrontational" approach can be applied in many difficult moments. If you understand and can defend your decision as a leader; make the time to acknowledge the other party, and their interests, then these moments can be opportunities for learning and growth for everyone involved.


Larry Hart

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