Redundancy… Managing a difficult process well

RedundancyRecently I read an article on Mamamia by Emma Sorensen about the day she was made redundant. Eleven months into maternity leave Emma received a phone call while in the supermarket with her child.  The caller engaged in idol ‘chit chat’ before getting to the point – Emma was no longer needed.  Emma’s story prompted me to reflect on how often I observe redundancies being poorly managed.  There is no question at times employers need to remove roles and resources in order to maintain the viability of their business.  However the way some choose to implement these decisions can be ordinary to say the least.

Before we look at how to manage redundancies well I would like to make this point: Redundancy should never be used as a surrogate for performance management.  Doing so is a gutless and unethical move often motivated by a desire to avoid having honest conversations or investing time and energy in performance coaching. Some managers even perceive it a less risky path; in other words a way to avoid potential legal ramifications of their decisions to exit people from their business.  This is far from the case! You are less likely to face undesirable consequences of any kind by behaving with honesty, transparency and fairness.

Tell people if they aren’t performing and give them the opportunity to improve.  If after you have done everything you can to help them they still can’t deliver, have the courage to terminate their employment on performance grounds. You can find further guidance on managing performance in previous blogs.

Included below are important things you need to know and should do to ensure you manage redundancies well.  Beyond these insights make sure you understand your legal obligations and seek qualified advice if you are unsure.   To learn more about lawful redundancy and employer obligations visit the Fair Work websiteTrain tracks

  • Roles are made redundant not people – be very clear about why you no longer need the role to be performed by anyone.
  • If you are reducing the number of people performing the same role, ensure you can explain why they have been selected ahead of their colleagues.
  • Treat people with respect and kindness – remember they have done nothing wrong; they are simply the current incumbent of a role that is no longer needed.
  • Be honest and transparent – help people to understand the economic climate or financial circumstances of your business.
  • Work with your team – leverage their insights to avoid making roles redundant wherever possible.  If redundancy is unavoidable look for ways to redeploy people to other roles.
  • Remember it’s not about you – people don’t want to hear how bad you feel or that it’s not your fault. Speaking with compassion and sensitivity will show them you care.
  • Deliver the news quickly – tip toing around the issue adds no value and avoids the inevitable.  Most people will guess why you need to speak to them so just get on with delivering the news.
  • Acknowledge the strengths people have brought and appreciation of their efforts.  Be careful not to over do it – often people don’t want to hear how much you will miss them when you have just told them they are going.
  • Don’t allow fear of how people will react to undermine the decency of your approach.  If you have a healthy workplace culture and behave with respect and decency leading up to the event people are unlikely to react badly
  • Where possible give reasonable notice of any business reviews – you are more likely to avoid adverse impacts if people see it coming.
  • Communicate with the rest of your team – those leaving shouldn’t have to break the news to their colleagues
  • Enable people to exit gracefully –
    • There is no reason to ‘march’ people from your office.  Deal with the rare person who becomes enraged or destructive on a cases by case basis
    • Allow people time to say their goodbyes – focusing on the productivity of the team members remaining on the day you let their colleagues go is callous
  • Help people to move on –seriously consider how you’re able to help people take the next steps in their career including providing outplacement support
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2 thoughts on “Redundancy… Managing a difficult process well

  1. Hi Karen — love this new post… As a business owner I have been involved in this and find that honesty with all parties (internal and external) is the best way to go. And treating all people with dignity and allowing them time and space to let go is very important in stopping any ill feelings from remaining.

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