Top 10 Layoff Mistakes
from Ketchum's "Layoff Insider"

This article is reprinted with permission from Ketchum Inside, the workplace communications and change management practice of Ketchum, a top-10 global public relations firm. (ed,)

1. Treating layoffs like an "event" instead of a "process"
Layoffs do not last for a day. Their impact is felt for a long, long time. Delivering tough news the right way involves comprehensive pre-planning, flawless execution, outreach to all key stakeholders, and a clear plan for rebuilding. Think process, not event.

2. Forgetting to put together a rebuilding plan
Never enter the layoff process without a long-term plan for rebuilding trust and reenergizing the organization. This should be a critical element of the planning process. A key success factor: reengaging the survivors in mission critical activities as soon as possible.

3. Failing to arm managers with adequate information
Most organizational communication is informal in nature. It occurs in the hallways and by the water coolers. Managers need to help guide those conversations and provide important information and clarification. Help them understand and communicate the reasons why the tough decisions that were made have been made.

4. Ignoring the survivors
Treating those being laid off the right way is critical. But so is addressing the needs of the survivors, who experience every emotion from guilt to anger to bewilderment. Talk to the survivors. Understand their concerns. And allow them time and space to feel whatever they feel.

5. Forgetting important stakeholder groups
Start the initial planning process by identifying all critical stakeholders, including not just employees, managers and shareholders.but also customers, communities, families, unions or other special interest groups.

6. Underestimating organizational memory
It ain't over, even when it's over. Employees have long memories when it comes to layoffs. Never underestimate the significance of layoffs on employees' psyche.

7. Failing to monitor the grapevine
Never guess what people are saying - .it's rarely what you thought it would be. How do you find out what's on their minds? Ask 'em every chance you get. Consider both formal and informal research. And adjust your communication plan to fit their reality, not your own.

8. Hiding behind closed doors
Be visible. Your willingness to engage in conversation and to see and be seen will communicate volumes about your values and leadership. So will your decision to stay in the bunker. Don't leave it to chance - create a visibility plan and stick to it.

9. "Not invented here"
It's easy to lead in good times. The real test comes during the tough times. Real leaders don't "pass the buck" in tough times, just like they don't hog the credit in the good times. The hidden opportunity here may be to "lead by example." Smart executives consider cutting their own salary or perks or taking other visible actions that communicate empathy, if not solidarity, with their employees.

10. Laying off the wrong employees
Make sure that appropriate due diligence is taken ahead of time to guarantee that if layoffs need to be made, all considerations are taken into account when selecting those who must be laid off. Even when the rationale for layoffs is accepted, employees can be completely unnerved by the elimination of high performers. It may be unavoidable, but be sure that all considerations are taken into account and that the decisions made are completely consistent with the rationale provided.

Ketchum is a three time winner of Inside PR's Agency of the Year and the seventh-largest agency in the world with more than 1200 employees in dozens of offices. Ketchum Inside includes internal communication specialists in virtually all Ketchum offices. It also includes a number of specialty areas which add unique value for clients. Ketchum offices offer a variety of internal communication services from: Change Communication; Internal message development and training; Organizational alignment; Improving Corporate Communication effectively; and Retention services. For additional information visit Ketchum's Layoff Insider and or e-mail: .

More like this in Leading Change and The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher archives


Copyright 2001 Ketchum. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading