I have recently become a manager for the first time and I am looking for guidance on making someone redundant. 

By way of background:

  • One of my teams has about 6 people, working on three different services. Service A has 3 specialists, Service B has 2 specialists and Service C has 1 specialist.
  • I have looked at our books and we do not currently have enough Service B work to keep 2 people employed. In fact, over the past 12 months, we have not had enough to keep even 1 person busy for much of the time.
  • My boss has hinted that he thinks we need to make one of the Service B positions redundant.
  • I would like to grow our sales effort in this area, but this will take time and we stand to lose a lot of money in the mean time if we retain a full time position that we don't require.

As well as any general advice on how to handle possible or actual redundancy of a direct, I am looking for advice on a few specific aspects of this:

  1. How do I reassure my team that I don't take this decision lightly and that I will do everything possible to try to avoid any future redundancies? This is especially important as this would literally be one of my first visible actions in the role.
  2. When should I advise the team that there may be a redundancy (as soon as possible or only once it is definite that it has to happen)?
  3. Should I advise the whole team or just the 2 Service B specialists?
  4. Should I offer a voluntary redundancy and/or give an unofficial heads up to the person most likely to be made redundant?

If there is any other info that would be relevant, please let me know.

On a side note, I am feeling a tension between the responsibility to make money for the company and the responsibility to protect and provide for my team. Does anyone know of any reading material that might help me think that through?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

mrreliable's picture

 The only thing about work I lose sleep over is having to terminate employees. It needs to be done occasionally, and it's part of my job responsibility. As much angst as it causes, I'm glad there's angst. I'd be disappointed in myself if I didn't feel bad telling someone they're no longer needed. You're clearly conflicted about it, which just means you have compassion. But it goes with the territory.

My two cents.

1. You don't need to reassure your team  you'll do everything you can to protect everyone's jobs. They'll either understand it or not, based on their understanding of the situation and the reputation you've already built with them. Kind of like with a baseball umpire. When you make a call like that, you need to sell it. If you come across as reluctant in any way, you'll invite skepticism of your decision.

2. Don't discuss anything with anyone other than need-to-knows until the decision is final. Once the decision is final, carry it out as soon as possible. I always try to put myself into the position of the person I'll be having the conversation with. If someone's going to terminate my employment, I'd want them to jump in and tell me as soon as possible. I've seen bad things happen when the rumor mill starts working and seen people notified of their impending demise through the grapevine. Not a pretty sight.

3. Deal first with the direct you are terminating. Then have a discussion with each team member explaining the changes.

4. Don't float hints. Offering a chance to resign is fine, but you should have a very short letter of resignation for them to sign if that's the route they want to go.

I've become the go-to person in upper management to let people go. As difficult as it is, I'm O.K. with it because the other folks are so bad at it. I've sat in meetings while these folks try to let the person down as easily as they possibly can, and it seems like slow torture, just talking until the person finally figures out what's going on. I took to jumping in and just saying it, "It's not working out," or "We've decided we need to move in a different direction and we need to terminate your position." Then try to relax and have a personal conversation. Don't beat around the bush. Once the decision is made, get it over with as soon as possible. It's not fair to the person to drag it out any longer than absolutely necessary.


Solitaire's picture

In addition to Mr.Reliable's advice above, you should also check for relevant legislation in your country, or check with your HR department what the rules are for your company. In some countries (definitely the UK) there are processes that need to be followed accurately so that you don't open up your company to possible legal action.

You may need to give a certain amount of notice to the relevant employees that the redundancy consultation is taking place.

You may need to find out what redundancy package must or can be offered. There may be a minimum requirement for your country for redundancy pay, although your company may decide to offer a better package.

You may need to follow a transparent process to identify who to make redundant, e.g. a list of criteria that you score everyone against to decide who will be made redundant (this may include things like performance, attendance, sickness record and outstanding disciplinary issues).

A good idea to check into these things before speaking to anyone in the team. As a newer manager I suggest also running any plans by your boss before you implement or announce anything to the team too.

This is one of the worst parts of being a manager. I've had to go through the process a few times in the past myself and have gone with my gut instinct that I am doing the right thing for the company. I tried to do it with sympathy and understanding for those involved and had many sleepless nights. I wish you the best of luck.