Redundant? We Treat our Computers Better than our Employees!

I recently heard yet another story of an employee telling me how she had been labelled as officially “redundant.”  Organizations of all stripes, private and government, seem to be excessively fond of this term, given how demoralizing and dehumanizing it is.

How would you feel to be classified as “redundant”?   Would you want that label applied to your best friend, your spouse or your child?  The underlying message is: you have nothing of unique value to offer us anymore and thus we are sending you to the curb.

Imagine working at a company for 10 or even 20 years and then being told that this is what your career has amounted to?

It makes me think we often treat our computers better than we do real human beings. After all, when we upgrade our computer system due to redundancy issues, at least we never tell our computer that they are redundant!

When an organization lets go of an employee, whether it be a firing or a layoff due to economic circumstances,  inspiring workplaces due it in a humane way.  They recognize that, even with a firing, the organization must take ownership of  a significant portion of the issue.  After all, who hired, trained, coached, mentored,  and supervised the employee that turned out to be a poor fit?  What culture enabled the employee to behave the way they did?  What support was given to the employee who was promoted beyond their capability?

Now I’m not by any stretch abdicating personal responsibility. Everything in my books starts and ends with personal accountability.  I’m merely suggesting it is not all on the employees’ shoulders.

So in inspiring workplaces they treat employees who are being demoted, laid off or fired in a respectful and humane way.  They understand the truly devastating impact the decision will have on the employee and the employee’s family.  Which means they are sensitive as to the timing of their communication, to the language that they use, and to how the information is delivered.  They provide career counseling resources, social networks and even mentoring programs to help them manage the transition in a caring and humane way.

Keep in mind that even when we must let someone go, those employees have potentially made lifelong friendships through their work, so we’re not just talking about an economic impact, or even just a profound psychological impact, but also a substantial social impact on the employee being effected.

And from a purely selfish point of view, those employees still have the potential to be lifelong customers of our business, and, depending on how they are treated, even lifelong ambassadors for our organization.

So what are you doing to make sure your employees are being treated better than your computers?

www.mikekerr.com  Copyright November, 2011

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