5 Tips for Jewelers on How to Handle Layoffs

Though the economy has shown signs of at least a partial recovery (wake up, you!), business is still sputtering for many jewelry retailers. And when sales are down, the reduction of sales staff is often a necessary evil. But, says outplacement expert Kate Wendleton, you don’t have to be diabolical when letting employees go.

In fact, it may work against your business to take what Wendleton calls the “surgical approach” (think quick and impersonal) when terminating employees.

Wendleton, president of New York City’s Five O’Clock Club, a national career counseling and outplacement organization, recommends a kinder, gentler method. Here are her tips for letting people go with dignity.

Be Kind

“A lot of companies believe in the surgical approach—get it done, get the employee out of there,” says Wendleton. “But our research shows that it’s bad for the company and bad for the employee. All you need to do is say a kind word. That’s the key. So you say something like, ‘The organization is heading in a different direction, but you’ve made considerable and long-lasting contributions to the organization. However, this is what’s happening.’ Only 11 percent of long-term employees received a positive word when they were laid off. And that’s bad for your company. The word gets out that you treated people poorly and people won’t want to work for you.”

Don’t Make Promises

“What you can’t do is make promises,” says Wendleton, “especially, ‘I’ll do my best to hire you back.’ It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to them.”

Remember the Survivors

Remember that layoffs affect existing staffers—another reason to be humane when letting people go. “If people are handled gently and compassionately, word is going to get around about how you let people go,” says Wendleton. “And it’s going to affect the staff you have. If you’re surgical in your approach, they will think, ‘Oh, this is how you’re going to treat me.’ You have to worry about the survivors and you have to consider the impact on the marketplace.”

Skip the Armed Guard

“We’ve all heard stories about people who have worked for a company for years, and then they are escorted out by a guard after being fired 10 minutes before,” says Wendleton. “That’s humiliating. And for the employer, it’s a false security issue. It’s not warranted. If you have an employee who’s [unruly], you can have a guard-type person hovering in the background, but they should be in normal clothes and certainly not taking anyone by the arm.”

Don’t Rush

“Allow people time to say goodbye,” says Wendleton. “Say to them, ‘Take your time, pack up your things, say goodbye to your coworkers.’ Why not? They’ve worked alongside you for all this time. This is really hard for them.”