Protect Your Reputation When Letting Employees Go

Most have heard that hiring is a PR event. You should make sure that, whether you hire the person or not, they leave your company wishing they got the job. That way, they will speak highly of your company to others that might want to work there. This is especially true in small industries and communities where everybody knows everybody else.

The last thing you want is people telling future potential employees how bad the company or hiring manager was when they interviewed and that they would never work for that hiring manager or company.

Not good PR if you plan on attracting top talent to your company. In fact, a great way to ensure top talent will work for your competitors.

I don’t think some (not all) companies or managers recognize the same principles apply when laying people off or even firing them.

Well they do, and I can  demonstrate this, because I recently encountered bad PR. Twice.

First example

I was recruiting for a Regional Director of Sales in the upper northeast. Because of the weather, it isn’t easy to relocate people there.  The company was in a very niche industry, and because it was a senior level sales job, industry experience was important.

It didn’t take long before trouble set in. Did I mention the reason for the opening was that the previous person was fired? Apparently, the manner in which the person’s boss fired him was at best inappropriate and at worst down right wrong and disrespectful.

The fired employee had spread the word about his treatment all around, stating what a jerk this person was to work for and how he badly he treated people. He also took the time to go into great detail about how he was fired. Now, what I heard when I tried to recruit people was, “I’m open to talking as long as it isn’t for X company working for X?” WOW, what a way to start a search in a small industry in a small geographical area.

This all happened because the VP didn’t see firing as a PR event. The best way to fire someone is to make them think you are doing them a favor, not by degrading them, surprising them, or throwing them out of the building. This VP took a bad situation (firing someone) and made it worse by the manner in which he did it. If the VP had done it correctly, he would have still reached his goal of letting the person go, but he also could have set himself up as a person that cares and people want to work for.

Second example

I live in Orange County, California. Most people think it is part of Los Angeles. It isn’t. For such a large area, it is actually its own community. Large enough to get lost, but small enough that people get to know people. There are so many networking groups that it is literally hard to plan an event because the first thing that comes up is, you know XYZ networking group meets then. At almost any time day and night, every day of the week, some group is getting together. Some groups have attendance in the hundreds and some have less. Regardless, there are a lot and this is how people get to know people in Orange County, California.

At a recent event I noticed a lot of people were saying, “Did you hear about ABC Company and how they did the RIF?”  RIF stands for reduction in force, or in plain English laid people off.  This was the buzz while people were standing around talking before the meeting started. Apparently, some of the people that got laid off were at the meeting and telling horror stories about how the company treated the employees they let go. Many of whom had been with the company for some time.

How many other meetings do you think these people attended in the next week and started telling the same stories? Not to mention all the people at the first meeting perpetuating the stories to their network, colleagues, friends and family. We used to say, this is how rumors start. Now we say this story is going viral. It won’t be long before this company’s reputation precedes them. When the economy shifts, and they need to hire people, it will not be easy.

All because they didn’t think of letting people go as a PR event. An event that impacts the company’s reputation and how it is viewed in its industry and community.

If you found this helpful, please forward it on to others so they will be helped. You can email it to your team, forward it to your network, post on Linkedin or company Web site. Let's help everyone build teams of top talent.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

 

bradremillard

About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.

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