Why It’s So Hard to Be Fair

by Joel Brockner

WHEN COMPANY A HAD TO DOWNSIZE, it spent considerable amounts of money providing a safety net for its laid-off workers. The severance package consisted of many weeks of pay, extensive outplacement counseling, and the continuation of health insurance for up to one year. But senior managers never explained to their staff why these layoffs were necessary or how they chose which jobs to eliminate. What’s more, the midlevel line managers who delivered the news to terminated employees did so awkwardly, mumbling a few perfunctory words about “not wanting to do this” and then handing them off to the human resources department. Even the people who kept their jobs were less than thrilled about the way things ...

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