Is it more enjoyable to fire employees in person or virtually? Here’s what the experts say.

When an employee in Amazon’s gaming unit attempted to log into work last Tuesday, she discovered that her access to internal systems had been revoked. His schedule had been cleared, save for a 15-minute meeting titled “Organizational Update.”

During the meeting, a manager read a company script as he explained that his position had been eliminated. The conversation seemed impersonal after her years with the company.

An Amazon spokesperson told the Washington Post that “employees who were impacted by the job cuts retained access to internal email, chat and other resources through the AtoZ app.” .

But that was not the experience of this employee. “I am a human being,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize her severance package. “Any employee should have a personal approach here in this situation. I expected something more than the standard script.

At the start of the pandemic, when offices were closed across the country and workers logged on from home, remote layoffs were a necessity. But some companies where workers have returned to their offices are still choosing to announce the news virtually. Last week, McDonald’s asked company employees to work from home as he issued redundancy decisions that affected hundreds of workers. Twitter made a similar move in November. Rather than closing its offices when thinning its ranks in January, Google announced layoffs via email, a move some workers found ruthless.

The calculation of the realization of virtual layoffs is complicated. Some people have compared it to a text breakup, arguing that it’s an insensitive way to receive such personal news. But if handled properly, virtual layoffs can make for a slightly less painful experience, according to Jessica Kriegel, chief workplace culture scientist at Culture Partners. She described the office closure during the layoffs as a way to be sensitive to the needs of employees during a difficult time – as long as the news is delivered in a direct conversation with a manager rather than in a mass notification.

“If I was fired, would I rather be briefed in a conference room and then escorted down the hall when I’m having very intense emotions, or would I rather hang up the Zoom call and go cry into my pillow at home ?” says Kriegel. “It’s much more compassionate for the employee to be able to have that security.”

The potential for privacy is part of the reason McDonald’s decided to close its offices ahead of the layoffs, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s strategy who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly. The aim was to provide “dignity, privacy and comfort” to employees, the person told The Post, saving them a long walk out of the office with their belongings in a cardboard box.

There’s also a safety factor: When Twitter prepared to cut its workforce by 50% in November, the company closed offices to prevent disgruntled employees from interfering with Twitter systems and customer information. customers, the company said in an email. announce the decision.

“To help ensure the safety of every employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data, our offices will be temporarily closed and all badge access will be suspended,” the email read, according to The Post’s report. “If you are in an office or on your way to an office, please go home.”

Twitter employees were then notified of their status by email. The company did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.

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Google made the headlines in January when it made the biggest cuts in its history via mass email. Some workers received their layoff notices while they slept, just minutes before the company released the announcement publicly. Employees who were terminated immediately had their email access revoked and were asked to sign up for a new email account that would be used to handle termination matters, The post office reported. Some showed up to work to find that their security badges would no longer let them into the building.

In response to a request for comment, Google referred The Post to a blog post from CEO Sundar Pichai about the January layoffs, in which he said the cuts weigh “heavily on me, and I take full responsibility for the decisions that got us here.”

Digital mortgage lender received a backlash after laying off 900 employees in a short Zoom call in 2021. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg also addressed the laid off employees with a short Zoom call in November, during which he did not answer questions and the chat function was disabled, The Post reported.

No matter how workers find out they’ve been laid off, “it’s going to be painful,” according to Sima Sajjadiani, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. But research shows there’s a benefit to delivering bad news in person, to “having that awkward conversation,” Sajjadiani said. “It’s more human and it’s more dignified.”

Firing remote employees denies them some semblance of closure, Sajjadiani said. As uncomfortable as it may be, the ability for employees to say goodbye and put their things away is an important part of the process.

“A layoff is a loss,” Sajjadiani said. “It’s not just a job you’re losing. These are your relationships with your friends, your colleagues, your network.

When companies choose not to have layoff conversations, things can go wrong. United Furniture Industries is now facing a class action after laying off more than 2,600 employees as the company closed just before Thanksgiving, announcing the news with emails and text messages sent “in the middle of the night”. The lawsuit claims employee rights were violated because the company failed to provide written notice of mass layoffs 60 days before the move, as required by Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) law.

According to Vanessa Matsis-McCready, associate general counsel and vice president of human resource services for Engage PEO, landing on the right mode of news delivery depends on the organization and the people involved. Closing offices before layoffs when your company is normally working in person can be more stressful for employees. So would being called into the office for a difficult conversation when you normally work remotely.

“You have to respect the culture of your organization,” Matsis-McCready said. For companies using a hybrid model, “it really is a balancing act” of deciding what is right for laid-off employees.

While at the pool with her family last summer, Lauren B. Weinstein received a phone call from her boss, letting her know that she was losing her job at Degreed, an education technology company. There was something merciful about being able to handle the news privately, Weinstein said. But it can also seem strange.

“In a way, it’s harder because your world disappears overnight,” Weinstein said. “You close your laptop and there’s no one else there.”

After learning she was being laid off, Weinstein, a career expert, was asked to lead workshops for other employees losing their jobs to help them navigate the situation. It was hard to swallow her pride, Weinstein said, but keeping room for others who were struggling with the tangle of emotions that come with being fired helped her come to some acceptance.

“The company says it’s not personal, it’s just a business decision,” Weinstein said. “Yet whatever happens feels extremely personal. It really hurts.

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