Leadership is stressful — there’s no getting around it. You’re responsible for dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people, their productivity, and their livelihoods. You yourself have to report to higher ups and have your decisions analyzed and challenged by both your subordinates and your superiors. According to one Gartner survey in 2019, only half of leaders in the workplace actually feel confident in their leadership decisions.
However, you’re in luck, because I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders in every field imaginable, and I’ve been able to help guide them through leadership challenges — and learn from their experiences — so here is my guide for tackling some of the most common leadership crises head-on.
Conducting a RIF or Layoff
Letting people go — it’s one of the worst parts about any management job. At some point, you will have to tell someone they don’t have a job anymore. This is a key moment for you, because you want to handle the separation with compassion, but you also have to navigate it skillfully so that your remaining employees are still confident in their workplace, your leadership and their own roles.
First things first: check your legal obligations. Whether you are issuing temporary layoffs or going for a permanent reduction in force, there are many laws on the books designed to protect your employees from unfair discrimination practices by employers, and you need to be aware of these, because odds are, they will apply to someone you are letting go sooner or later. This includes marginalized identities, employees over the age of 40, staff out on family medical leave or who collect worker’s compensation, and so on. There are also timeline and reporting requirements you need to adhere to — check in with HR and compliance to make sure all your I’s are dotted and your T’s are crossed so you can head into this difficult moment with all your groundwork done right.
During the layoff itself, you’re going to have to lean all the way in, my friend. Do not shy away from how difficult these conversations are going to be — your employees are people. Don’t delegate the layoff conversation to someone else. Don’t drop off the call or leave the room at the soonest opportunity. Make sure that you are…