Redundancy – The Human Element

When employment law specialists talk about redundancies, they tend to approach the subject from a legalistic standpoint, considering such things as: the selection pool; the need for Explain Financial Needs Of A Business consultation, whether collective or individual; the various meetings and letters needed; calculation of severance payments; Settlement Agreements, and so forth. All very important.
But what about the “human” element in all this, namely the Scope Of Business feelings of those involved? Isn’t that just as important?
ACAS thinks so, as its recently published guide on Redundancy Handling demonstrates. Being involved in a redundancy process is stressful and worrying for all those employees whose jobs are at risk, even if the end result is that they stay employed. Merely being in the pool from which redundant individuals will be selected, can cause anxiety and a plummeting of morale. And losing your job to compulsory redundancy can be a devastating experience, leading to feelings of anger, rejection, helplessness and a loss of self esteem, that in some cases take years to overcome. On the stressor scale, it has been likened to bereavement, and if you’ve been through it yourself, you’ll understand why. How the process is handled by your employer can make the difference between being left feeling emotionally crushed, and walking out with your dignity intact.
But spare a thought for the people on the other side of the desk: those whose job it is to break the bad news to the employees at risk. They may not be obvious candidates for sympathy, but it’s painful for them too.
The new ACAS guide refers to the “heavy emotional and psychological demands” placed on those who have to tell their colleagues that their employment may be about to end through no fault of their own. Sleepless nights can follow exhausting days dealing with the emotional reactions of others, seeking to convey information professionally, alleviate fears, preserve self-esteem, and encourage people not to bottle up their feelings in a damaging way – all against a backdrop, all too often, of trying to do the “day job” as well.
In a small company, it may be the business owner or manager who has to support his/her team members through the emotional rollercoaster ahead. And yet there are likely to be strong bonds of friendship between the individuals concerned, which will make this task all the more challenging. Support for the “teller” is as important as support for those being told the bad news, and yet it is often overlooked.
If your business should unfortunately need to implement redundancies, think carefully about whom you select to be the harbinger of bad news, and how you prepare and support that person for the difficult task ahead. Or better still – let your external HR consultant take on that role for you, handling it in a professional and caring way, but free from the emotional attachments that make it so painful for anybody within the business.

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