Do you find letting people go difficult? Is the task of telling someone they have lost their job emotionally confronting or uncomfortable? Most leaders do, and that’s a good thing.

Downsizing with dignity requires as a starting point that leaders care about the people whose lives are impacted. While necessary decisions need to be made, having empathy is essential to any leader’s ability to manage the process of downsizing well.

While most redundancy decisions are aimed at strengthening an organisation’s future, how they are implemented is essential to success.

8 essential steps to allowing people to move on with dignity include:

  1. Lay foundations of trust.

    Minimising detrimental impacts of downsizing begins long before it becomes necessary to make redundancy decisions. Maintaining engagement from the rest of your team while making necessary changes to your workforce, is possible only when people trust those in charge.

    When people trust their manager and leadership team they are entirely more likely to accept decisions made to protect the viability of the business. When trust in the character and competence of leaders is low, resistance and conflicts typically escalate.

  2. Look ahead.

    While of course unanticipated events can place enormous financial strain on an organisation, adopting a planned and considered approach to running your business will go some way to helping you forecast and avoid challenges.

  3. Grow carefully.

    Consider what the future is likely to bring before deciding to expand your team or hire new people. Maintain an optimal level of resourcing by questioning the need for every role as the need to recruit arises. Carefully consider the likelihood the role will be required in the foreseeable future.

  4. Be respectful, fair and compassionate.

    Never step back from the decisions you need to make, but demonstrate respect and sensitivity for the ways in which your decisions impact people. Understand that most reasonable people will accept decisions reached with fair and reasonable consideration given to all of the options and consequences.

  5. Be aware and informed.

    Understand each impacted person’s circumstances and how they will be affected by change. Do all you can to help people to feel personally valued and that the loss of their job is sincerely regrettable.

  6. Be real.

    Authentic and honest insights are important elements of treating people fairly and earning trust. Give your team every opportunity to understand reality while protecting commercially sensitive information. Reasonable people understand you can’t tell them everything but expect that you will tell them as much as you can, as soon as you can.

  7. Be open.

    Leaders often hesitate to share information for fear of undesirable staff turnover or disengagement. However, the simply reality is in the absence of information people are likely to draw their own conclusions. Proactively influence the awareness and engagement of your team by being up front about how and when redundancy decisions will be made.

  8. Support managers.

    Coach managers to communicate decisions clearly, provide facts accurately and deliver news with sensitivity. Appreciate the emotionally draining impact having to let people go can be. Ensure managers have the support and resources they need to have the best possible impact on those affected.