COMING UP FAST: letting staff go

COMING UP FAST: letting staff go - DILEMMA: What a grim day. Making good people redundant when you're fully aware of the dire jobs market is a miserable thing to have to do. It's hard to be 'hard'. A couple of them are so financially stretched that they may now have to sell their homes. When we cut staff numbers six months ago I was convinced it would be enough. It wasn't.

by Patrick Dunne works with 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: What a grim day. Making good people redundant when you're fully aware of the dire jobs market is a miserable thing to have to do. It's hard to be 'hard'. A couple of them are so financially stretched that they may now have to sell their homes. When we cut staff numbers six months ago I was convinced it would be enough. It wasn't.

ISSUES: You're not alone. Many leaders of businesses, large and small, are going through this situation and feeling exactly the same. Even if you're convinced it is the right thing to do commercially and you have been the model of a responsible and considerate downsizer, you're still human. Few growth-orientated entrepreneurs enjoy the relentless grind of cost-cutting, and few things undermine morale so much as regular cuts.

However, depressed leaders depress those around them, so you need to get a grip and get back to motivating your remaining staff. You can't do that if you're not motivated yourself. So what is your new goal and how will you rebuild momentum? How will you improve the competitive position of the business so that it can win in the market? How good is your top team and how motivated are they? You'll need to energise them first.

If your demeanour matches your feelings, the staff will either think you're a decent person who cares, or a big softie. You need to find out which. They should feel they're working for a company with a future at least, and working for a winner at best. And so should you. Your top team has to be bought in and to be actively helping.

Before you start, be honest about why you feel so bad. Is it really genuine concern, or could it be a little guilt, a sense of failure or loss of face? Maybe it's a mix of all four. You should also be balanced about paternalism. Genuine concern for the people who work with you is fine, but you can't be responsible for their own financial planning.

ACTION

- It's normal to feel awful doing this and to feel a sense of responsibility, but remember that you also have a responsibility to get on with it.

- Establish a clear sense of purpose and develop some simple calling cries.

- Galvanise your top team into action and get them working towards a brighter future.

- Remember this grim day when you're next on a high and sell the company!

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