How do we tell the people
who will remain?
Of all the downsizings in which WorkLife Design
has participated, one of the very first set the
standard for telling remaining employees. You
tell them direct, in person, and as quickly as
In one insurance company of about 750 employ-
ees, the downsizing was conducted in one day.
People whose jobs were eliminated were told by
departments. As soon as everyone was told in
one department, the team moved on to the next
department. It worked in that culture.
After exiting people had been told, the CEO
returned to each department. He brought with
him people to answer department phones and
to handle other immediate work needs. Then
he gathered the remaining employees around
him. He stood in the middle and briefly told the
people what had happened, and why. He talked
about the severance policy that was in place,
and the kinds of assistance exiting employees
were receiving. Then he asked for questions.
“I took a lot of heat,” he recalls, “and some
people swore at me and there was lots of anger.
But the next morning,” he adds, “people started
dropping by my office at 7:00 A.M. to thank me
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