Is it ever a good thing to lay people off?

We were sat in the meeting room off of the open plan office again. We had been through too many of these conversations. It was frustrating because I’d seen something in the lad during his apprenticeship and given him a job in our team.  However he had coasted after that, he seemed lethargic, disinterested and careless. His work was substandard and leading to complaints.

So, this time I explained to him that we were going to put him on an improvement plan for a month. However, if there was no improvement, then we would be looking at a process with formal warnings that was likely to lead to dismissal unless there was real and sustained change.  In the conversation, I asked him if this was where he really wanted to be. He said that actually he had always wanted to work with computers but not the old ones that came off of aeroplanes for repair, rather the ones that sat on desks where people typed things and played games.

A couple of weeks later, he came in to work with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. He asked if he could see me.  He told me that after our conversation, he had made a few calls and been offered a job working for a company in exactly the field of work he wanted to be in.

There are times when the best thing you can do for someone and for the company is to let that person go.   However, here are some important tips:

  1. It is important that you don’t allow personal prejudice or dislike to cloud your judgement.
  2. Genuinely wish people well. Of course there will be times when you have to dismiss someone for gross misconduct or for a long period of unethical behaviour and they will take those character flaws wherever they go.  However, sometimes it is simply that you have a square peg in a round hole. They will be much more effective and happy elsewhere
  3. Be transparent and direct if there is an issue. Explain exactly why it is that you think that it is best for all that they leave.
  4. Make sure you stick to the law. Follow processes. Don’t force people out by underhand methods.
  5. Be generous, give people time to find something new.

I would also add that it is important you use the right processes and reasons. It is tempting to wait for a round of redundancies to remove a problem. However, you may be waiting  long time and also it isn’t really an honest way of dealing with things. Better to keep the person on through the redundancies and then have the honest conversation about the problem with their work. Redundancy is there for when a role is no longer needed due to re-organisation or no longer sustainable due to financial constraints. It is not there to get rid of unwanted workers the easy way.

I think that whilst not a direct link, there are lessons from Scripture and church discipline we can learn. In Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, we seen that even when people are asked to leave, their good is sought as well s the church’s. Although it will be painful and we should not take delight in having to let someone go, our prayer is that it will lead to a positive outcome for them.

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