Terminating an employee is never easy. Employers need to do go about it with utmost sensitivity and empathy.
However, in the current spree of layoffs, some companies have adopted the practice of sending out digital pink slips. These are termination notices issued via email, text messages or other such technological means.
While this method may seem convenient and efficient, it is an insensitive approach that lacks the personal touch and human empathy that is crucial in such situations.
First of all, digital communication can come across as cold and impersonal, which can have a devastating effect on the person being terminated. Receiving a termination notice via e-mail or some other digital medium can feel like a punch in the gut, as it does not allow for the kind of closure and support that a face-to-face conversation can provide.
This can leave the employees feeling hurt, disrespected, and even somewhat insulted, which can have long-lasting effects on their mental and emotional well-being.
Samir Bhiwapurkar, head – HR and general administration, Japfa Comfeed
Samir Bhiwapurkar, head – HR and general administration, Japfa Comfeed, says, “The practice is absolutely disrespectful. Whether the employees are at a senior or junior level, companies need to respect them as individuals, treating their work and contribution with dignity. Companies cannot suddenly text the employees and tell them that their services are not required from tomorrow. Such acts should be carried out in a thoroughly planned manner.”
Digital communication can also be easily misinterpreted or misconstrued, leading to further confusion and distress for the person being terminated.
When communicating through digital means, it is difficult to convey tone and emotion, which can lead to misunderstandings and ambiguity. This can make an already difficult situation even more confusing and stressful for the employees, who may not fully understand the reasons for their termination or the repercussions or what it to be done next.
While handing out digital pink slips saves companies a lot of inconvenience, it is important to balance such efficiency and convenience with the potential impact on the person(s) being terminated.
Lack of closure
Saba Adil, chief people officer and risk officer, Raheja QBE, asserts that closure is an essential aspect of any termination process. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that employees receive closure in a respectful and professional manner.
“People deserve closure and it’s important that exits be carried out through a connection and conversation. This goes a long way in building trust with the company.”
Saba Adil, chief people officer and risk officer, Raheja QBE
She adds, “People deserve closure and it’s important that exits be carried out through a connection and conversation. This goes a long way in building trust with the company.”
How can the personal touch be ensured?
Companies can adopt a more personal approach to termination by having face-to-face conversations with employees, either in person or on video call.
This allows for a more human and empathetic approach, and provides an opportunity for the employer to offer support and clarification. Additionally, companies can also provide resources and support to help employees navigate the transition, such as career counselling and outplacement services.
A face-to-face conversation helps the employees to process the news of termination and understand what is to follow.
Face-to-face conversations allow for clear communication and understanding of the situation. It also allows employees the opportunity to ask questions, express emotions and receive support from the person delivering the news. Face-to-face communication can also help build trust and foster a more empathetic and supportive atmosphere.
An ideal way is to deliver the initial notice of termination through e-mail or a text message. This can then be followed by an in-person meeting to discuss the reasons and provide support and clarification.
Bhiwapurkar explains, “As a human being or as a representative of a company, it is important to understand the implications of termination, as it affects not just the employees but even their families. Therefore, in a corporate setting, termination should be handled graciously, providing enough notice. ”
There are companies that go about the termination process in a very decent and planned manner, giving their employees sufficient time — a two or three-month notice — to find a job. Some even help the impacted employees get placed elsewhere.
“What is important is how the company handles the situation and provides a good experience to those affected.”
Rajorshi Ganguly, President and Global HR Head, Alkem Laboratories
A personal chat with the terminated employees can help to foster a sense of closure and respect, which can have a positive impact on the employee’s mental and emotional well-being, even in the face of a difficult situation.
Adil agrees, “Having a clear and open conversation about the reasons for the exit and what the future holds for the individual can help to provide closure and promote a positive perception of the company.”
She goes on to add, “This conversation can also help to minimise any negative impact on the morale of the continuing employees and foster a positive work environment for future candidates”.
The practice of handing out impersonal digital pink slips is clearly insensitive. Employers should handle terminations with utmost compassion and understanding. They must consider the impact that the delivery method may have on those involved.
By approaching terminations with empathy and respect, employers can help ease the transition for the employees and ensure a positive work environment for all. After all, these employees were an integral part of the organisation and they should not be treated as dispensable commodities.
As Rajorshi Ganguly, President and Global HR Head, Alkem Laboratories, rightly sums up, “Layoffs are unfortunate, regardless of the industry, sector or organisation, but sometimes necessary. What is important is how the company handles the situation and provides a good experience to those affected. This includes paying a fair severance based on tenure and providing additional support — extra notice, medical insurance, or outplacement services”.
“No company wishes to lay off their employees,” points out Ganguly, but “certain circumstances necessitate such difficult decisions for the long-term sustainability of the business. After all, organisations are ultimately commercial entities”.
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