Saturday, July 14, 2012

The One Who Passes Sentence Should Swing the Sword

I recently sat down with three individuals from the same organization who all had recently been laid off. I was annoyed but not surprised by how the notification was made and the situation was addressed. They were told that the financial situation of the organization required them to take this action and they may bring them back if the situation were to change in the near future and/or it is in alignment with the direction of the organization at that time. To top it off, the individuals providing the news were not the one who made the decision nor were they prepared to address questions or concerns. Own the responsibility of your decisions and have enough respect for the person to be prepared. If you can't be there in person make sure the bearer of bad news has all the information required.

An appropriate quote from the TV show, The Game of Thrones, that expresses my sentiment to this type of tactic is, "The one that passes the sentence should swing the sword." 

I think HR ethics and practices as it related to layoffs and terminations need to be better scrutinized. When a decision is made to layoff or terminate an individual, some fundamental things should be prepared and information should be prepared before the meeting, which in my opinion should include:

1. The decision maker should be the one who reflects why the decision was made and the critical factors that lead up to this point. If not possible, then this information should be provided to the proxy

2. Performance strengths and weakness should be identified

3. HR representative needs to have recommendations based on historical performance reviews and direct managers feedback on some personal development focus areas to help the individuals in the future. This could mean potentially letting them know of roles they feel maybe better options based on experience.

4. Have a reference letters pre-drafted as part of the exit package identifying what they organization is willing to state on behalf of the exiting employee and the appropriate person to use as the contact point.

5. HR needs to be prepared with an exit package including how they will address severance, vacation payout numbers, commission/bonus, shares, etc... and the timelines associated with each factor

I have had to fire two people in my career so far and this is how I did it so I am not just preaching.

When dealing with peoples livelihood I would expect professionalism and consideration and not sloppy preparation. This is not an uncommon practice in many small and medium sized firms where the HR role(s) is filled by none HR designated professionals. They are sometimes not as well equipped to tackle some of these challenges or know how too. This is not to say it does not happen in larger firms because it does but a higher standard of accountability and responsibility is applied in these areas or so it seems.

As I know these people personally I maybe over venting but people matter. This is not to say the decision was wrong or these actions are not required but have some tact, be professional, stand behind your decisions, and swing your own sword.

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