Q: The business is going through tough times at the moment and I need to let some of my staff go. Is it better to make people redundant before or after Christmas?
A: What a horrible dilemma. But I suspect you should be guided in your decision by two overlapping considerations: the effect of redundancies not just on the unfortunate victims but on the whole office; and the corroding influence of uncontained rumour.
Perhaps the worst experience you could subject your people to would be to live with an unconfirmed fear of widespread redundancies over the whole Christmas period. It would infect just about everybody - even the majority whose jobs were, in fact, safe - and pervade the holiday for many families. So my rather grim advice would be: only if you're absolutely certain that redundancy rumours haven't begun to circulate should you even consider delaying the inevitable until after Christmas. And you're very unlikely to be that sure.
For those in receipt of the bad news, the timing will seem cruel - and indeed it will be. But sometimes uncertainty is even worse. And only when the particular redundancies are publicly known will general apprehension and speculation finally subside.
If you are the unfortunate who has to hold these conversations, remember two things. Please don't expect any sympathy; however unpleasant your task will seem, you still have a job and they don't. And, wherever possible, be clear that it's the role that has been made redundant, not the person. It makes it just that bit easier when the news has to be passed on to family and friends.