Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

According to the ADP National Employment Report, from January through April this year, U.S. companies with fewer than 50 employees let go 904,000 employees. Being laid off is a huge psychological and financial event, but it can be just as traumatic for the business owner who has to perform this dirty deed. Although a much different setting, managers and directors of large organizations can go through the same thing.

But just like the flight attendants tell you on the plane, always put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You're no good to anybody if you're incapacitated. I'm not trying to be cold here but lets face it, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don't look after the business, why would anyone else?

A number of years ago, I knew a guy who had a yard landscaping (mowing) business that took off like hotcakes. He quickly developed a rather large clientele and hired extra people in order to keep up with the workload. And then, alas, Winter rolled around and the workload dropped just as quickly as it had grown. He felt so bad about the idea of having to lay off some of his workers that he couldn't do it, and the business eventually (fairly quickly actually) fell apart. Instead of putting on HIS oxygen mask, he tried to share it . . . and there wasn't enough. The survival of his business depended on him putting on his own mask first.

When the time comes to lay off staff is when the real leader comes out. Honestly explain to your employee(s) the reasons for your decision, express gratitude for their loyalty and service, and be sure that you re-enforce the fact that the lay off isn't in response to their performance. And remember that you aren't the focus of the conversation, the life of the organization is. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

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