Making sure remote redundancy conversations are sensitive and fair

With job losses continuing to hit the headlines, many employers are wrestling with the practical issues involving redundancy consultations, and how to conduct these in a sensitive way despite restrictions. Covid-19 is forcing many leaders to question how they should approach the redundancy process. While there is no tool that replaces the quality of being in the same room with someone, of the choices available, my advice during these difficult circumstances would always be to use video communication. It significantly reduces conflict and misunderstanding, while enhancing trust and engagement. Video conference, provides some of the most precious and subtle cues to understanding each other and – most importantly – believing and trusting in what each other is saying.

To be clear though, video is not a replacement for face-to-face meetings. Once lockdown has eased to the extent that we can safely meet in person, I would always suggest that a discussion as significant as one regarding redundancy be held in person. Nor does video reduce the need to follow the necessary HR procedures. Even when done remotely, it’s vital that any redundancy decision be properly planned and consulted upon.

Using the phone provides greater clarity through hearing tone of voice and being able to interact and question. There have also been studies underlining the importance of tone of voice in conveying intention, sincerity and politeness when delivering important and difficult messages.

Having difficult conversations about redundancy should, whenever possible, be face-to-face, as this will build understanding, connection, and empathy on both sides of the conversation. Being in a room with someone can reduce threat and create a sense of safety and openness between people. Email is favoured as a form of communication by most people at work on the basis that it’s quick, convenient and doesn’t argue back. It is, however, the worst option from an employee’s perspective, as it’s a blunt way to communicate a life-changing decision and is by far the most likely to create misunderstanding and conflict. It will create resentment and disappointment among staff who are leaving and, just as importantly, those who are staying. It also reflects discomfort on the side of the employer at knowing how and when to have difficult conversations with their employees.

(Article from xpertHR, 4/8/2020)

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