Involuntary attrition – when the organization decides to part ways with an employee – is the lesser, lower-profile part of the overall attrition number. Organizations do it all the time. Firing, laying off, letting go and putting out to pasture are all synonyms that couch the reality of doing someone out of their job.
Whatever the circumstances, reasons or even the odd excuses, departures are emotional, often traumatic events. Being asked to go has been known to cause severe personal upheavals: Depression, health failures, family break-ups, even suicides. So why would leaders choose such an execrable option?
Integrity: This one is obvious. Anyone who has defrauded the company deserves no sympathy whatsoever. That is as long as the infraction has been factually established, beyond doubt and before the process commences. Ending with the employee accepting their fault.
Performance: A more common reason for involuntary attrition. When, despite every effort to bring the employee up to speed, it just hasn’t worked out.
Re-engineering: The past decade brought the concept of downsizing, a.k.a. re-engineering, from the textbooks into the limelight of reality. Recessionary environments across the globe caused organizations in India to shut down parts of their businesses.
Witch-hunt: New leaders sometimes tend to hunt down and weed out people their predecessors had hired. Particularly those who resist their new management style and changes. It’s one known way to clear the decks for new leaders to bring in their ‘own’ people. However, towards the retrenched employee, leaders often show the indifference of a five-year who has grown out of a plaything. Cold and crude. As if to say, you’re of no use, you’re leaving so why should I care how you go!
The consequences of an employee scorned are many. For example:
Employer Branding: How companies handle people makes up an employer’s branding. Employer branding, in turn, is a driver of talent attraction. No one – unless they’re really desperate or have a short-term view – wants to work for a company with poor employer branding.
Still a customer: While customers are always right, an employee-turned-customer is right – with all the facts, including insider information. Unhappily departing employees can be belligerent, noisy on social media and a downright nuisance for the customer services unit.
A nasty buyer: Infinitely worse than being a bad customer, he is a negative influencer if their next employer is a potential/existing customer. Unfortunately, it’s been known to happen. Negotiating with an enemy can needlessly delay sales, increase costs and impact revenues.
A knowledgeable competitor: There’s a good chance the departing employee will join competition! Oops! There go your customers, your pricing policies…need I say more?
General bad mouthier: From social media to blogs, to case studies with ‘classic employee mishandling examples’. Spewing venom at public fora, seminars, conferences, wherever industry professionals, customers and potential buyers gather. They’ll take every opportunity!
Simple commonsense can prevent all this pain. So unless the termination is for integrity reasons, leader should:
Allow for the notice period: This is usually well defined already. The time an organization takes to find a successor and facilitate a formal hand-over. However, for the terminated employee, it is usually too little time to find a decent job. But it helps.
Monetary protection: Offer a severance package. Push the accountants to fast track payment of dues. Since the employee is not leaving for a better job, chances are they will need money until they find one. Organizations have been known to hold on to people’s dues, forcing painful communications, reminders and escalations. Very, very bad!
Communication: Communicate the ‘bad news’ to the employee before the grapevine does. Be sensitive and as professional as possible. Allow the employee to communicate with her team and inform them of her departure. This should happen before the official communication to the employee population goes out. It’s the professional thing to do.
Farewell: Even a small departmental huddle with coffee and cookies to say ‘thank you for your contribution’ eases the pain.
Making the employee’s last memory of the organization a positive one can help retain their loyalty and brand ambassadorship. The trauma of losing a job invariably heals over time. Sooner, if the person quickly finds something else to do. But if the last memory people have of their former employer and leader is the sickening way they handled the departure process, then that remains etched forever. An eternal enemy takes birth the very same day! Why risk impacting employer branding! When it only takes a little effort to strengthen the bridge between the organization and the departing person – not nearly, a bridge too far!