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Nobody likes bad news. Being the bearer of bad news can be just as difficult as the person receiving it.

Business leaders are often placed in the far-from-easy situation where they need to inform an employee that they are being laid off. These delicate circumstances are closely watched by everyone at the organisation, and one bad move from the employer can end up sparking uncertainty and discontent among the workforce.

On Thursday, HSBC UK announced that it will be closing its call centre, known as HSBC Global Services (UK) Limited Malta Branch (HSMB), in Swatar, Malta in June 2024, resulting in the loss of around 200 jobs. The decision came after the company conducted an “extensive review” of the locations that serve the UK-based bank’s customers.

HSMB’s workforce will be subject to the bank’s redundancy policies, and HSBC UK stated that it will support employees as they explore alternative work opportunities. Local authorities have also held discussions to explore the possibility of impacted employees moving to “new opportunities at other local contact centres”.

Reports said that workers were informed of the decision during an afternoon meeting on the same day of the announcement. They were reportedly in tears, with some staff worried about their mortgages, home loans, as well as work permits.

This is just one of many cases whereby employers are faced with the tough decision to dismiss employees. Among the many challenges businesses are facing in today’s turbulent economic climate, redundancies are becoming more common.

Business leaders need to manage these situations with utmost care, as people’s futures are ultimately on the line.

Here are five ways business leaders can handle such situations in a more successful, effective, and positive manner, minimising the impact on the rest of the business.

1) Prepare the process

Business leaders need to first start off by assessing the company’s financial situation, identifying which areas of operations can be deemed surplus to requirement.

If after the assessment, business leaders find that they can avoid redundancies, then that would be the best outcome for all parties. However, if this is not the case, then they must prepare all of the necessary documents to move to the next step of the process.

2) Ensure a fair selection

Once the areas that need change are identified, there needs to be a fair selection of the person or people that will be made redundant.

Business leaders could have situations where a full department or branch will be made redundant, but on other occasions they may only need to select a particular person or group of people. Should the latter be the case, then the decisions must be objective and done completely based on the best interests of the company.

Objective decisions need to take into consideration the employee’s capabilities, skills, competence, experience, attitude, disciplinary records, and productivity, among other factors.

3) Clarify situation to the employee

Redundancies take place when the business feels that a particular role is no longer needed.

When informing the employee about the decision, business leaders must make sure to clarify and explain that the position is being made redundant, and the decision is not a reflection of the employee.

It is vital for employers to comply with employment laws and regulations when they are managing redundancies. Failure to do so can lead to claims of wrongful dismissal, prompting further challenges for the business.

Employees will be more accepting of the fact that the company is taking the decision in order to restructure. Such situations can be especially difficult for employees, and thus emotions can boil over. In these cases, a clear explanation during which all of the necessary information is clarified is needed, and business leaders must be well-prepared to answer any questions the employee may have.

4) Show empathy with the employee

Experiencing redundancy is a difficult time for any employee, as the loss of regular income can cause fear, especially in cases where an individual has a family, a loan to repay, and other outstanding bills.

Business leaders need to be prepared for any emotional responses the employee may have, ranging from anger, shock, disappointment, as well as resistance.

Expressing empathy towards employees can make the displaced employee feel that this was a difficult decision to take. Failure to do so can lead to the furious former employee to voice their discontent at how the management deals with these situations, sharing it with family, friends, and possibly current employees. This will not only give the business a bad reputation, but may also hinder its chances of recruiting talent in the future.

5) Provide departing employees with additional support

Redundancy can be a traumatic experience for any employee; consequently, providing the necessary support and guidance to help affected workers deal with the situation can go a long way.

Business leaders should consider whether there are any other potential roles that the individual could fulfil within the business. If this is done, then the impacted employees may feel more appreciated by the company, knowing that they are still valued members of the team.

Additionally, business leaders can also help in terms of providing CV support and career coaching, as well as providing job search advice and recommendations.

Tied to this point, it is also integral for employers to consider the impact that the redundancy will have on the remaining employees. Following the news, they may feel demotivated, stressed, or uncertain about their own job security. They may also end up having an added workload that could have an impact on their mental well-being. The decision could also result in many broken bonds between employees, affecting the chemistry and synergy that is present in teams.

Therefore, business leaders need to keep their employees updated and supported throughout the period, ensuring that a positive work environment is maintained.

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