We need to thing of ourselves as divorce lawyers more often. When managing the exit of an employee we are trying to strike the balance between what is legal, what feels fair to the individual and what is in the best interests of the organisation. For some that process feels like a divorce.
There is a case I was aware of, which struck me as particularly sad. The individual had built their entire career around his one employer. I knew him towards the end of his career and had never had to deal with him on anything other than normal HR issues. He was in my view a very competent employee and one which disproved my long held belief that people become ineffective if they stay in one place for two long.
A decision was reached that he needed to leave. I wasn’t involved in that decision and luckily I didn’t have to make it happen. Setting aside my views on whether he needed to leave it was his exit which disappointed. The redundancy process was reengineered very quietly, I won’t go into detail but fellow HR professionals will know all the methods for achieving the desired outcome. But the reengineering was not subtle to the employee. Everyone treated him as too stupid to realise or too polite to be difficult. For whatever reason he continued with the consultation professionally as he was demeaned by process.
As he was about to exit, with the final indignation that his own manager shirked the responsibility of delivering the news his final attempt at redeployment had failed, we talked. He’d just celebrated his wedding anniversary and I noted it was 5 years less than his employment with us. If he had made the connection he didn’t share it with me.
Removing someone like that from the organisation is a divorce. He was coming to terms with the fact that his employer didn’t want him any more. It’s a case where the organisation failed to give someone the credit they deserved and treat them with the respect they needed. No one wants to be made forcibly redundant, so why make it even more uncomfortable? If we cannot influence a decision then we must work hard to make sure the implementation of that decision is managed in such a way that those affected retain their dignity and our respect.