Is it possible to gently kick someone out?

Is it possible to gently kick someone out?

Even when you are firing someone, it is possible to do so with compassion and kindness.

Foto: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

Two years after receiving positive reviews from his managers at a financial company, Andre Santos was surprised when one day he received a phone call from the office.

The message of the HR representative was brief: the company was undergoing a restructuring and Andrei was fired, effective immediately.

“I panicked and asked: What do you mean?” Andrew remembers. But there was no further explanation. Not a call from your ex-boss.

At that time, Andrei was married with a 5-year-old son, his wife does not work. The couple lived in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

He goes to the office to return his name card, picks up his belongings, and leaves the building in tears.

“I was shaken,” he told the BBC. “When the phone rings, you imagine it’s anything but that. That’s when I realized there was no such thing as ‘we are family.'”

It was Andrei’s luck that he managed to take a drastic turn. He would become influential in his field – but at the time, the brutal tone of the shooting led to a bout of depression.

Experts say it’s an entirely understandable reaction to a careless layoff. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Negligent dismissal can have a significant negative impact on the person being fired.

Negligent dismissal can have a significant negative impact on the person being fired.

Foto: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

A certain level of humanity

“Layoffs can have long-term effects for the individual, and we can never know what it will mean for them personally,” says Gemma Dell, a professor in the School of Business and Law at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK.

“Managers should never forget, when announcing the end of the process, that they are dealing with a human being with family, responsibilities and dreams,” she told the BBC.

Jodi Glickman, author and founder of American consulting firm Great on the Job agrees, adding, “Someone should be fired with a certain level of humanity.”

Fromwithgo soft

Experts say it is possible to gently kick someone out. While there are no quick and easy rules, this usually combines at least three key factors: transparency, empathy, and support.

Glickman says not surprising employees is definitely the first step for employers trying to do the right thing.

“As a leader, you have to set expectations and be clear about how people can meet and exceed them,” she told the BBC.

If the reason for layoffs is related to company results, leaders should be transparent about financial difficulties and let employees know that bad news is coming, she says.

Glickman says that good leaders must also recognize that dismissal is difficult, while providing “some sense of transition” for employees.

“You have to realize that it’s really hard to let go of work and tell people how you’re going to take care of them.”

Dell says that helping employees improve their resumes, in addition to providing references and one-on-one support, can help alleviate many issues.

Glickman says that the way managers treat employees reflects the culture of the company

Glickman says that the way managers treat employees reflects the culture of the company

Foto: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

toxic culture

The matter gained prominence later this year after the president of US mortgage lender Better.com, Vishal Garg, surprised 900 of his team’s employees by firing them in a single Zoom call.

“If you’re making this call, you’re part of the unlucky group that got fired,” the CEO told the stunned employees, who were utterly surprised.

To make matters worse, Garg’s apparent lack of empathy – critics called him “cold”, “difficult” and “horrible”.

Glickman says firing someone is “never a conversation that takes place in public” and believes Garg acted “like an absolute idiot”.

“When you lay off 900 people via Zoom…it seems completely indifferent and even cruel looking at the moment before the (Christmas) holiday. You leave people with a horrible taste in their mouths compared to your employer.” , as you say.

“And you never want it to be like this if you need to fire people.”

Judy Glickman doesn't think it's possible to change a company's culture just by replacing a CEO - though it's a start

Judy Glickman doesn’t think it’s possible to change a company’s culture just by replacing a CEO – though it’s a start

Foto: Great on the Job / BBC News Brasil

After a global backlash, it was later announced that Garg was taking time off due to various administrative errors.

He apologized for not “showing the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation to the individuals affected and their contributions to a better service,” and added, “I own the decision to lay off, but in communicating that I was wrong in implementation.”

But Glickman is not convinced the move means much. She says the layoffs say a lot about the work culture at a company that, in the case of Better.com, has been described as “toxic.”

“The dismissal of 900 people en masse through Zoom is a reflection of a culture that does not care about its employees,” she says.

“I don’t think the culture can be fixed by simply replacing the CEO. Because the problem is, how many people have to agree to this decision? And how many people agreed that this is a good way to communicate with employees?”

Experts say complex layoffs can be disheartening for employees who keep working

Experts say complex layoffs can be disheartening for employees who keep working

Foto: Getty Images / BBC News Brasil

Feeling undervalued

Dale says the episode shows how mishandling of layoffs can have a disastrous effect on public relations. She says a company with a tarnished reputation may be less able to hire talent.

Separating people without care can intimidate your employees and determine how they perceive their value to the company.

“The team can see how their former colleagues were treated, and raise questions about employee engagement, motivation, or loyalty — or even encouragement to seek other jobs,” says Dale.

Glickman agrees and says that former employees are potential “ambassadors” for their former employers – but when things go wrong, they become “enemies” of the company.

“They (company employees) are corporate students, and they often end up as new clients, or even new business partners.”

“It wants to be known as an organization that believes in its employees, invests in its employees and does what is right for them.”

They kicked me out and want me back

This was not how Andrei felt after his dismissal, although he says that he does not feel resentment towards his former employer.

But he says he was completely confused when the company called a few weeks later and asked him to resume his old job.

“They said there was a mistake and asked me to come back. I obviously said no. I was still interviewing for another job and hadn’t received any offers, but I preferred to take the risk,” Andrei says.

“To be honest, if I hadn’t been fired, I would have ended up getting fired anyway, because it wasn’t a fun and stimulating environment.”

Andrei received a job offer after his dismissal, but refused it.

Andrei received a job offer after his dismissal, but refused it.

Photo: Andre Santos/BBC News Brasil

Today, Andre Santos teaches courses in sales. His networking efforts in previous years – mainly through LinkedIn – bore fruit after the pandemic hit him, as he was able to start his own online business.

He earned Top Voice status on the platform, with over 30,000 connections and more than 300,000 followers. His posts have been viewed more than 100 million times.

Andrei says that switching to a brand gave him freedom.

“When we work, it feels like we value more. People want to be friends with us. But when we’re fired, some of them disappear. This fluctuation is not good for our health,” he says.

“I realized that I needed to invest in my network and my personal brand to make sure it was always worth a lot – whether or not I was employed, unemployed, in or out of work.”

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About the Author: Camelia Kirk

"Friendly zombie guru. Avid pop culture scholar. Freelance travel geek. Wannabe troublemaker. Coffee specialist."

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