How many people managers within sales teams have been trained to have those redundancy conversations?
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)* make for grim reading with UK unemployment levels at a three-year high of 5% (for the period from November 2020 to January 2021).
Companies have started to lay off staff and many sales professionals are fearing their fate as businesses and industries continue to struggle. In these exceptional times, it can be easy for employers to do away with certain processes and formality and to sweep humility under the carpet; however, the individuals whose jobs are under threat need to be treated with kindness and respect.
How many people managers within sales teams have been trained to have those redundancy conversations? Are they being thrust into the situation without sufficient time to prepare?
In the last few weeks, two of my friends have been made aware by their employers that they are being made redundant. Each was handled in a very different way.
In one case, my friend had been with the company and with the same line manager for eight years. It was the same manager who was having the conversation with him in the presence of a member of the HR team, over Zoom. The coldness of the process is what my friend was most shocked about. There was no empathy or compassion shown; it was just a very direct and to-the-point conversation saying that this is what is happening and what the process will be.
Once he had come to terms with it, my friend spoke to several of his colleagues, who described a similar experience and sentiment. They all felt that the process could have been handled better. They all understood that things are not great out there but genuinely believed that they worked for a company and manager that cared about them. After that conversation, they felt low and dispirited.
In the other case, it was a verbal heads up that the company was going through a formal review process and that individuals would be notified within two weeks as to whether they were being made redundant or not. Two weeks later, my friend got the news they were dreading and was subsequently put on immediate gardening leave for the duration of their notice period.
No doubt, we are going to hear about more redundancies over the coming weeks and months. My hope is that companies provide the individuals delivering those messages with the appropriate training and support before they are required to have those conversations. No companies want to make their workforce redundant. However, if there is no other option, then at the very least it needs to be handled with empathy and compassion in mind. Having to tell someone that they are going to lose their job is not easy. I have seen experienced managers freeze mid-conversation because of the psychological impact it can have.
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*Published 23 March 2021: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peoplenotinwork/unemployment