Bottom-line: What are important things to consider when managing a team where part are in an office that will be closed?

My company is closing an office where I have a few directs. Some will be laid-off. Others will be offered to work at home. There is another office 5-10 miles away where they go either work from or meet occasionally.

How hard do I push to travel there to tell them in person? My thought is to push really hard even though travel is extremely tight. My people are a fraction of the staff there. But I'd consider the ones they'd like to stay and work from home at high flight risk. I believe I need to tell the ones being laid off and strongly encourage the ones we want to stay. I have listened to all the podcasts I could find related to layoffs and feel prepared to handle this as gracefully as I possibly can. (Thank you!)

Anything special on handling the team left behind? Unfortunately :( I've spent the past year getting them to pull together as one team from different locations and felt that this had finally hit it's stride. So, the rest of the team are very friendly with their coworkers who will be laid off or offered to work from home. I'm sure there will be some mourning for them and adjustment to the team.

Anything pointers to topics on getting people to work effectively from home who haven't done it before (and actually weren't asking to do it)? I personally did it one day a week and know the pros & cons. But I don't know about doing it on a full time basis. The ones we want to keep are great performers and 1) may not like it; 2) I don't want them to start slipping either. I did listen again to the Virtual Team one and we'd already been working on doing that better. But with people being put into their homes who didn't ask to do that, I'm concerned about them having any sense of team.

jhack's picture

Ms Sunshine,

Do it in person, even if you need to travel by plane. It's the right thing to do.


MsSunshine's picture

A new wrinkle is that I'll have multiple locations with layoffs too. None of which I could do in one day or even two. I think there is no "right" answer. But if you've done this before, any thoughts on what is the best?

1. Do it over a series of days. Maybe start with the biggest group and go to the smallest. Or start with the office closing first. The bad thing is that once they start, news will get out quickly. Other groups will be having layoffs too. It's almost like torture to drag it out. But I'd have hours of plane flights and time zones to deal with. So, one day just cannot happen. The reality is that I could also have someone call in sick who is getting laid off and throw the plan into chaos.
2. Only do one myself and have others do the rest. (Do I pick the one with the office closing or one losing some long term people where the people remaining are likely to be upset more?) My boss could do another one because he has people there too who don't report to me. He actually has the same problem of multiple locations. Maybe the other ones have to fall to HR. Maybe get my boss's boss to do some in one location. This seems really bad solution ...but even with two of use we can't be in multiple locations in one day.

I asked my boss but just got a sad look and an "I have no idea" response. He looks like a "deer in the headlights" because he actually has whole teams going away, big product problems, etc. It's a huge blow for him. thought is to help him as best I can by presenting a solution with this issue as well as how we go forward. I'm using the lead time to make a plan to try to hit the ground running as best as I can.

I also thought about asking HR. But they are scrambling right now to do all of the legal stuff and help managers who have to still pick people to go.

jhack's picture

You can't keep it a secret. Once you've started, everyone will know right away, and by the time you get to location 2, 3, etc, they'll just be waiting for you to wield the axe.

Very tough situation. I've seen a situation where the big boss flew in from corporate HQ, and was surprised to see everyone packing boxes. They knew.

Having one person go to each location and bear the bad news is best. Your presence where folks will be left behind will help more than going to an office that's shutting down. Maybe HR can go to the offices where there will be no one left.

You should still reach out to each one (like in the "Boomerangs" podcast) and offer assistance.

Please let us know how it goes.


MsSunshine's picture

Thanks. You're right in that my primary job is to keep the people going who are remaining. There is one location remote from me where some more junior people will be remaining that I'll need to support. Even though the bulk of those remaining are co-located with me, I can deal with them more easily after the fact.

Picking the office being closed is an emotional response not logical. I feel really bad because some of them are great contributors but just in the wrong place at the wrong time. (They were acquired years ago but a small office compared to the other larger acquisitions. It's just too expensive to keep the office going.)

Watching this process of picking a significant number of people to be cut has been interesting. Maybe it's my self preservation to retreat into the technical analysis of what I'm seeing to get away from the emotions! I think all have been said in MT at some point. But sitting in meetings with people's names being tossed out and yes/no to keep them was a sobering experience.

Here's some things I'll remember for my own career.
1. Mistakes are forgiven. But you'd better show you recover quickly. The other people getting laid off have had a major issue in their past. I am coaching them on these areas. But some had festered for years and gotten the attention of management above me. A couple that turned around quickly I fought for and won. But those I couldn't prove were good now are cut.
2. Get over bad things quickly. If someone has to go, the people with less than great attitudes go after the non-performers. We were acquired a few years back and some people still talked about the "good old days". Basically, they asked for anyone who's attitude was less than positive. (I do remember some MT podcast saying this.) A few of the people were unhappy in their position for awhile. I had been working with them on career options, delegating new challenges to them, etc. But the comment was enough is enough.
3. Networking with upper management can save you. In the conversations throwing out names, an upper manager would say that they talked to person X and felt they were getting better. Then person X came off the list.

jhack's picture

Great observations, and true to my experience.

Remember, folks, even if your performance is top rate, your attitude is always positive, and your relationships with the big dogs are solid, you may still be let go: geography, product eliminations and other factors are out of your control. Control what you can, and keep your network strong.

Best wishes,