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How To Manage Coronavirus Layoffs With Compassion

In a recent article published on the Harvard Business Review website, Dean Emeritus Ken Freeman reflects on how best to handle laying off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of Dean Emeritus Freeman’s first suggestions is to spark “resourceful, creative thinking about how your organization can save as many jobs as possible.” Consider gathering your management team and asking what other sacrifices might be made to reduce costs. “Laying off people should be the last resort,” says Freeman. And if you must, make every effort to avoid multiple rounds of cuts. 

If layoffs are indeed necessary, figure out how and when you’ll deliver the news to your employees on an individual basis. Reach out to HR, your legal department, or any other senior leaders who can help you prepare to answer questions like “what happens to my 401K?”

It’s also essential to deliver the message with the right tone. Since you’ll be communicating remotely, Freeman says to take extra care to break the news with “empathy and compassion” and to treat people with “dignity, fairness, and respect.”

“Stress that this is not about a specific job performance,” adds Freeman. “This is not the employee’s fault. This is about a global circumstance that none of us created.”

To read more on how to handle layoffs with empathy, read the article on HBR.org.