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The Right way to Lay Off Remote Employees

by Ruthy Hope
Remote employee lay off

Most of you probably didn’t start out as the boss. Take a moment to remember a time when you worked for someone else. You may recall decisions that you didn’t agree with about the way the business operated or how management treated employees like yourself. Think of the solemn promises you made back then. When you’re the boss, you imagined, you’ll do X differently. And now you are in charge. And the decisions are yours to make. But it turns out that the reality is more complicated than you pictured. You suddenly have a little more empathy for the tough choices that people at the top are up against. How you handle your position and wield power may be a mark of the type of person you are. So let’s talk about one of the most challenging determinations you make as the one at the top: how to dismiss employees, specifically when they’re not even in the room. Let’s examine the right way to lay off remote employees.

Mistakes Were Made

Maybe you caught this viral snippet where the CEO of Better.com remotely lays off nearly a thousand employees at once. It is a total and complete failure of empathetic leadership. Did I mention that this event transpired three weeks before Christmas? The inclination is to reject this callousness as a fluke, but it is a lesson. Each employee is a person with obligations, needs, and an ego. Losing a job disrupts the harmony of all of that. No matter their financial situation, it is never an inconsequential moment in anyone’s life to learn that you’re no longer wanted. Even if the firing is for cause, it still creates turbulence in the life of the employee and no one should wave that off.

The Right Way

Now that we’ve looked at one of the worst ways to let remote employees go, let’s comb through some better options:

  • Foreshadowing: In the example above, there was no prior warning. The employees received no advanced notice of any coming changes. It serves everyone best to provide warning of a shift in direction and announce a virtual meeting that will take place soon after. This way, employees will anticipate that layoffs are at least a possibility.
  • Timing is Everything: Even employees who don’t celebrate Christmas enjoy time off during this period to commune with family or friends. Leaving people in a depressed economic situation just before a vacation period is deeply insensitive. On top of that, your business reputation for such an action could suffer when former employees go onto social media with the news.
  • Words Matter: Practice what you will say by recording a short video and playing it back to yourself. Communicate as though the person you’re speaking to is someone you truly care about. Check your equipment for the virtual meeting to ensure it’s all in working order and that people can hear you clearly. The last thing you need is an audio mishap at an inopportune moment.
  • Human Resources: Coordinate with HR for all steps in the process. Ensure that they are available for the employees following the announcement. They will have concerns that require answers. Make sure that all paperwork is in order ahead of time. Be as generous as possible with your time and resources.

The Only Way

Companies dismiss employees from their positions either because of their conduct or for business reasons beyond their control. Either way, each person deserves to be dealt with respectfully. Learning how to let employees go with grace makes you a better boss. When you lay off remote employees it adds a wrinkle to the equation, but it’s not difficult to overcome. It is not any less devastating just because they’re not in the same room. You need to make certain that you have attended to the needs of those you are letting go and that you have found the best, most appropriate way to handle this delicate task.

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