Managing the Layoff Notice

The announcement by Microsoft this week of massive layoffs brought to mind my own experience at Tektronix when it began paring employees, signaling the start of its downward drift as a major employer. 

Laying off employees — whether it's one or thousands — is no fun. Communicating the layoffs is no fun either, but there are ways to make it less painful — for those losing their jobs and those staying. 

Painful Lesson #1

Let employees and other internal stakeholders (key vendors, consultants, strategic partners) know about layoffs before the general public. Nobody likes to get the news about a layoff their could affect them in a newspaper.

There are always logistical, timing and legal considerations that go into how and when a layoff is announced. But here is the painful truth — there is always, always a negative, sometimes permanent reaction when the layoff announcement is made public before it is made personally. 

Employees are not dumb. They know when layoffs are looming. They may even understand why they are necessary for the greater good of the company or organization. What they can't forget — or maybe forgive — is being the last to know.

Considering the Public Interest

Starting with what's in the public interest, not just in your private interest, can lead you to new, innovative ways of addressing problems that disarm critics and persuade community members you are a good actor.Taking into account the public interest is an important step to ensuring your issue management strategy connects and resonates with the audience you need to influence.

You may have good arguments, but if they don't respond to the concerns of your audience, they may well fall on deaf ears. Injecting the public interest into your planning and thinking is one way to avoid that audience disconnect.

A good example is a company that wants to build a facility on a riverfront location. You may want to talk about jobs and economic opportunity, but your audience may be more interested in your safety and environmental record.

Plant Tours: Seeing is Believing

When facing a contentious neighborhood dispute, don't overlook the persuasive power of the plant tour.

In an age when social media, YouTube videos and infographics have more sex appeal, the plant tour offers the irreplaceable virtue of letting people see for themselves what you are doing. That's often all it takes to turn critics into advocates.

Plant tours have the distinctive quality of being something that virtually any business or organization can organize. There are always restraints – sensitive operations, tight quarters or personal privacy issues. But there are almost always work-arounds that allow your neighbors or skeptics to get a first-hand view of your factory, educational facility or medical clinic.

Nothing is more authentic than opening the doors of your facility and letting people talk with your employees and see where they work. It can change people's minds because it erases their fears of the unknown.