Apologies for the length of this post, but up-front: my question is basically how to order the communication sequence for a layoff announcement along with reorganizations?

I just laid someone off last week. Fortunately I discovered Manager Tools several months ago so I was able to apply the recommendations in the Compassionate Layoffs podcast. As far as the layoff went, including the meeting with the team afterwards, everything went pretty smoothly (as much as can be expected with something as difficult as this).

We also planned to move two of my directs to my peer’s team, basically doing the same role, but helping to share the load caused by a layoff in her group. In order to avoid arousing suspicions and unsettling everyone before the layoffs, we didn’t want to do this minor reorg in advance. I had, however, laid the groundwork for the possibility of some changes, so my two (former) directs took the news right in stride. But it took us until the morning after the layoffs before we had a chance to formally communicate the changes to them and then to the rest of the team. I didn’t want to call another emergency meeting and give everyone a heart attack, nor did I want to wait three days until the next staff meeting, so I just emailed the news to the team right away, complete with reassurances that no further changes were being made.

I considered this reorg to be fairly minor -- less admin work for me, perhaps, but they’d be doing the same job, sitting in the same place, and generally interacting with the rest of my team in the same way. And I’m sure if layoffs weren’t looming, this wouldn’t have seemed too worrisome. But I got a lot of feedback this week in O3s (one week later) that the remaining team members really took the 2nd announcement hard. I think they took my comments after the layoff as somewhat dishonest since I led them to believe the impacts of the layoffs were completed. I can understand how any change like this can reopen a fresh wound, but I'm not sure how I could have communicated this more effectively. Again, it wasn’t the two employees who were upset -- it was the other team members (or at least some of them). One of them asked a question about further changes, and when I said there weren't any planned, said “well, I wasn’t expecting a straight answer but figured I'd ask anyway.”

I don’t believe I have a [u]general[/u] credibility problem with the team -- more like they think I know something and just can’t tell them yet, etc. But that isn’t much help, because it’s a credibility problem in an area that kind of defines the environment for them right now (so it sort of seems like a general credibility problem).

[list]- Should I have just announced the reorg in the same meeting when I told the team about the layoff (without formally telling the two impacted employees first)?
- Should I have quickly held a meeting with the 2 employees before announcing the layoff so that I could announce them at the same time (rather than immediately telling the team as a whole about the layoff)?
- Should I have held the meeting to let them know about the layoff but left the issue open-ended (rather than trying to give them closure about the impacts)?
- Or should I just accept the fact that I have the "boss" sign over my head and therefore I can't be fully trusted?[/list:u]
By the way, the reason it took until the next morning was that layoff day happened to be the day with most of my regularly scheduled one-on-ones (and keeping O3s to 1/2 hour that day was almost impossible). I thought about clearing up my calendar, but didn’t feel like moving O3s around was a great signal while they were feeling vulnerable. To be honest, I don’t even know whether one announcement in the morning and another in the afternoon is that much better anyway.

In trying to piece this together for an after-action report, I can’t figure out what I’d do differently. Even though this post seems really, really long I feel like I’m leaving out a lot of details. I’m assuming layoffs and reorgs quite often go hand in hand -- anyone come up with an effective method for delivering a multi-phase announcement like this?[list][/list:u]

HMac's picture

It appears you handled this very thoughtfully - and you get extra points for compassion. I think it's impossible to do it in such a way that you don't get some blowback, especially during O3's. I'm no psychologist (nor do I play one on TV), but I wonder how much of the reaction is just people venting, grieving, expressing pain on behalf of their fallen colleagues, etc.

Keep the O3's going, and keeping behaving with credibility. You can only do so much (and doing those two puts you in the top 1% of managers!).

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

My hunch is that the people who weren't laid off, but weren't part of a re-org are nervous. They probably assume that if the company is going to bother moving someone, they're not going to lay them off. So, since nothing changed for them they probably feel their heads are still on the block.

I'm assuming that you don't have much say in the layoffs. You can't give more information than you have.

Be honest and respectful. Understand why they're nervous. Reassure them as best, and honestly, as you can. In the end, there might not be much you can do to ease their worry.

Chelle's picture

I work for a very large multinational that just went through a company-wide reduction in force. The announcement was about the RIF and a reorg to happen concurrently, and everyone got the announcement at the same time - we were all given a month's notice.

The people who were let go were shocked (can't be avoided), the people who were moved were surprised but relieved to keep a job, and those of us that nothing happened to were relieved.