Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Hate December Layoffs

December and the end of the business calendar year is fast approaching, so you can be sure that some companies and organizations are well into planning for the dismissal or lay-off of scores, if not hundreds of employees.

I was reminded last week of the horror of people losing their jobs and income just before Christmas, when Indiana University Health announced the pending cut of about 800 employees by December 1.

IU Health is Indiana’s largest hospital system with 19 facilities and more than 24,000 full-time employees.  The announcement said some employees would be offered early retirement.

IU Health President James Terwilliger said they have to cut expenses and adapt to trends in health care.  The goal is to save $1-billion in the next five years.

I cannot recall how many times the Institute for Crisis Management has been called in November and December to help organizations through the “bad publicity aftermath” of big lay-offs around Christmas time.

I have been known to get down on my knees and beg management to delay those big lay-offs, even some smaller ones, until early in January – to be sensitive to employees and their families and the devastation that losing a job and an income can have on people anytime of the year, but especially at Christmas time.

The accountants and to some degree the lawyers look at me as if I am as dumb as a box of rocks.

They tell me those lay-offs are mandated by the budget calendar or shareholders or both.  And to delay those personnel cuts would cost money they can’t afford to spend.

I argue in return about the “cost” of ill will for such a Scrooge-like attitude and behavior.  And besides the public reaction to such ill-timed news, the employees who still have their jobs begin to worry if they will be next. Productivity drops, attitudes sour, management-employee trust takes a hit and in some cases customers begin to worry that they can’t count on you anymore and start looking for alternative sources of the products or service that the down-sizing organization provides.
If you are contemplating lay-offs in December, make sure you update your crisis communication plan, prepare a spokesperson to "explain" why you must do this now and be prepared for the negative reaction within and from without your organization.