This week, we take a look at the future of ‘the workplace’ and what that means for managing people.
To start with…
…refresh your knowledge of human resource management on pages 154-183 in Chapter 5, then compare the following clips from the movie “Up in the Air”. One scene shows someone being let go in a thoughtful way, and the other is a far less considerate approach via video chat.
So, to summarise…
…letting someone go. As a manager, you may need to do that. You may have to decide who to let go, or you may just have to act on someone else’s decision and take away someone’s job because that was what you are asked to do. You may find it easy, particularly if you wanted the employee gone, but chances are that it will not be. Rejecting someone tends to be hard.
Downsizing is not uncommon in large companies or during difficult economic times – like our times. There are different ways to downsize, and they are listed in Table 6.2 on p. 160. As the textbook points out, any of these methods is likely to cause suffering to the employee; however, the way you deliver the news may also make a difference.
If you have not watched the movie “Up in the air”, this may be a good opportunity. The movie tells the story of a “professional firing agent”, who travels throughout the US to let people go. His life is well organised around this job, but things get a bit shaken when a new team member introduces a method of letting people go using video chat. The story holds a message that has not much to do with management studies, but it contains interesting scenes of how people can be let go.
Here are two scenes of letting go for you to watch. One is a scene where the agent lets someone go in a thoughtful way, and the other is done over a video chat with far less consideration. Put yourself in the firing-agent’s shoes. What would you have done in that situation?
Letting employees go affects not only the leaving employee. The remaining employees, as well as public opinion, are affected as well. People talk to one another, and word gets out. For example, Hastie’s SMS made the news, even though they did not actually lay people off. In your textbook, p. 173 identifies some of the issues around letting people go.
You may never find yourself in the position of having to let someone go. But if you do, whether you like it or not, you will probably play a very significant role in the employee’s life. This is why it is important to start contemplating the best way to play that role right now, so early in your career.
And at the very least, you have been introduced to a pretty good movie.
Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…
- The effects of downsizing and layoffs
- Workforce diversity
Consider the following questions for discussion…
- How does letting go affect the company? Who are the likely affected parties?
- What could be the damage to a company when people are not let go gently? If you need some inspiration, there are a few ideas here. But keep in mind, many more options are possible.
- What are the risks and disadvantages of letting people go gently? Why don’t all companies do it?
- People from different cultures have different expectations. How would diversity in the workforce affect letting go strategies and techniques?
- If it had to be done, which way would you like to be let go? Which way do you think you would let people go?