Layoffs happen and sometimes need to happen. Companies change vendors and clients sometimes decide to work with a competitor. Sometimes vendors and employees need to go without getting paid for a period of time until the company can get out of a temporarily cash crunch. Doing business with people means having to confront many difficult decisions and situations, however, it is precisely how we manage and play with these difficulties that truly demonstrates why we as individuals are worth knowing and doing business with… or why we are not for that matter.
With this in mind, I am one who believes there is a right and wrong way to approach all the situations mentioned above if our goal is to achieve the most beneficial outcome for all involved. The very simple core to the approach here is understanding that you are working with, sitting across from or on the phone with an actual human being with emotions, feelings, a memory and likely a few liabilities hanging over their shoulders just like you.
This being said, the right approach does not guarantee everyone at the table will walk away feeling wonderful (in fact, both may still feel horrible) but it does guarantee that both people will walk away feeling as best they can about the what is happening as well as the other person involved in the process. I know… this is hard for some people to grasp… people acting humanely in the workforce is a foreign concept for some reason today, but one that will hopefully continue to grow and become the new normal, especially as this world becomes smaller and people become more and more dependent upon personal relationships for survival.
So what does acting humanely entail?
Well, if you’re about to fire someone, do it in person first and foremost, forget about that stapler he/she stole 2 years ago, or the piece of cake you had in the fridge, try and be as empathetic as you possibly can, offer to try and connect the person with some people who can hopefully help them land back on their feet AND ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH. Not following through here is exponentially worse from a Karma perspective BTW. If you don’t know anyone who can help the person, contact a few recruiting firms or at very least CALL ME and I’ll try and point you or that employee in the right direction. Reality is, there are companies still making money these days and people are still hiring qualified candidates. If you think I’m lying, stop reading and listening to the inflammatory headlines, actually talk to a few recruiters and people who are proactively hunting for jobs, and start following the likes of PEWeekWire and reading about the firms actually doing well.
If you’re changing service providers, vendors or suppliers, try being real with your current provider, vendor or supplier. Tell them exactly why you’re making the move, when you plan on making the move and if there is ANYTHING they can do to keep your business. More times than not, you’ll get a better deal than the place you were wanting to move to was offering and you won’t have to deal with the headache of moving. In my business I don’t get paid if that happens but I still encourage all my clients to try and resolve their outstanding issues with whomever the existing provider may be before spending the time/energy looking for another provider because it’s simply the right thing to do.
If you can’t pay your vendors or employees, again, try being real with them. Set aside your ego and tell them exactly what you and your company is going through. Tell them what you think a reasonable payment plan can be given your cash position and let them know REALISTICALLY what your company has planned to change and how this change will help to eventually make them whole. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOP TALKING WITH THEM AND AVOIDING THEIR CALLS!!! Any and all relationships or reasonable terms you may be able to salvage will fly out the door if the company needs to hand your account over to collections and you try to negotiate after you’ve received your final warning.
If you’re an employer, realize that your employees have options. Though it is true most people tend to have a hard time understand what those options are, your employees are NOT your slaves and should not be taken for granted or treated as disposable assets. More times than not (assuming you’re not a total dick to begin with) they will in fact work even harder than they were when you were paying them a full salary if things get hard, especially if you are transparent about what is happening, offer them equity and/or think of creative ways to provide them ownership in what they are doing. Even a small piece of equity can go a long way especially if you spend the time to educate your employees on what their options are worth and could be worth over time should your company make it through the hard time it is in.
What goes around comes around.
Saying it is one thing… living and experiencing it is another. It’s simply a cosmic reality though, like gravity and my inability to surf on a short board, so please embrace it and start living your life through this lens and filter sooner rather than later. This is not an emotional statement, but based on simple physics; every action has an equal or greater reaction.
For example, that employee you helped get back on their feet when you had to let them go is a million times more likely to return the favor should you ever find yourself in the same position. That vendor who you were open and honest with from the start is a million times more likely to help you make it through your hard times, as they would rather get paid SOMETHING than NOTHING, which is what they will assume they’ll be getting if you simply blow them off. And the employee you communicate with, treat with respect and offer some ownership in what they are doing every day is a million times more likely to stick with you through the hard times than leave you high and dry, forced to recruit, hire and bring up to speed someone else when you can’t afford to pay them. Now, seriously, which side of the coin would you rather be on? This is rather simple stuff for most of us right? … so let’s get PRACTICING these things on a daily basis and holding each other accountable for a change.
PLEASE share with us your stories… when have you seen something POSITIVE someone did for you or someone else come back to help them down the road?
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