How to Lay Off Colleagues with Compassion

Furloughing or laying off team members is grim reality for aviation managers amid the pandemic. But, there are some ways to sooth those difficult conversations says Desiree Perez, Leadership Coach & Aviation Consultant

“Our society is facing some difficult challenges during this current pandemic. Not only are we facing our own challenges, we are potentially having to impact many of our employees and their families through layoffs and furloughs. While everyone is fully aware that this is something out of everyone’s control, the task of having to send off your employees can be extremely daunting.

I think we all can empathise with others that are having to make those difficult decisions. Having to lay off employees is never easy. Our current situation makes it more difficult. One of the questions you may be asking yourself is: How can I be empathetic with a large number of employees and yet make sure that I am going to be ok? Unfortunately, layoffs affect us emotionally and we need to make sure that we allow ourselves the time and space to process.

  1. Be well prepared
    When delivering the news to your employees, ensure that you are well prepared with the message you want to deliver. Part of this should be the explanation that is relevant to your organisation.  If you have a broad knowledge on some of the aid available in your specific country, have that readily available with some rough ideas on how people can benefit from this aid.
  2. Be yourself
    When delivering the message, the biggest encouragement I can give you is to be yourself and to allow yourself to empathise with your employees. Often times, a protection mechanism for us is to deliver the message and move on without being drawn into the emotions of others. This is the time to share how we feel as well. Sharing your feelings can be related to a topic such as sharing how disappointed we are by having to deliver this message.
  3. Take care of yourself
    Having to deliver messages regarding layoffs in itself poses a huge challenge. Having to potentially do this to a large number of employees can feel even more difficult. Check in with yourself to see how many conversations a day you want to have as well as ensuring that you are able to rest up (as best as possible) prior to this day. Plan time to do what you enjoy – whether it is reading a book or working out. These small tasks will help you make it throughout the day.
  4. Set the right expectations
    During these times, there is so much uncertainty. We do not know or have a definite timeline on how quickly we will emerge from this. It is very important to set the right expectation with your employees on whether you will give any sort of updates or perhaps you would like other employees to check in with you or your teams. Building a strong team of employees that were laid off is important by reducing cost for training and potentially badging. Building relationships with your employees at this stage is an important part in maintaining a positive morale in your organisation. 

As much as I hope that none of you are faced with these difficulties, I believe this is the harsh reality. If I can be of any support in preparing you for this or simply by me being a sounding board, please do not hesitate to reach out at [email protected].”

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