Here are some stories of staff layoffs (due to downsizing) that ended badly:
1. One company I know of, thinking that rumors would leak out anyway, decided to be honest and forthcoming and announce to the staff that in several days, there would be some layoffs. Of course, those several days ended up being terror-filled and unproductive for the staff.
2. Another company brought into question one manager's personal responsibility in the timing of layoffs on his staff. It seems that the word came down two days before Christmas that this manager would have to lay off several employees. He didn't want to ruin anyone's Christmas break, so he decided to postpone delivering the news until afterwards.
His heart was in the right place, but things kind of backfired. One employee happened to attend the same church as the manager's boss. After Christmas Eve services, the Big Boss shook the employee's hand and told him that he was sorry about the layoff. The Big Boss was extremely embarrassed to discover that the employee hadn't heard the news yet.
Needless to say, the manager had hell to pay the next time he went into the office.
Another one of the soon-to-be laid-off employees surprised her husband that Christmas with a non-refundable $3,000 vacation trip, not aware that her family would very soon have to tighten the purse strings in a big way.
3. Yet another company managed to keep secret news of a relocation of an entire company. The news was delivered like a bombshell in a big meeting room to all 106 employees at one time. The employees felt that they'd been deceived for all the months that this plan had to have taken. The company offered about half the staff their same jobs if they would relocate. Out of those 106 employees, only four relocated.
I think if you asked any person out of each of these groups if they thought their layoff was handled well, they would say no.
Clearly, there's no good way to deliver news of layoffs, but do you think one way is preferable to the other?
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.