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How to handle making people redundant

How can a manager handle the stress of telling colleagues they are redundant, and avoid being redundancy’s collateral damage? It’s about finding the right level of empathy, writes Xenia Taliotis

BusinessModelFor the 9.6 million people on furlough who are waiting to see if their jobs will be added to the almost 700,000 already wiped out by the pandemic once the scheme changes in October, this is a time of anxiety. Some employers have already jumped the gun: in August alone, Costa Coffee laid off 1,650 people, BA laid off 10,000, and John Lewis & Partners reported prospective staff cuts of 1,300.

Redundancies are stressful, both for the people leaving and for those dealing with them. Jane Smith*, a director of marketing at a global leisure company, has recently gone through the process with both members of her team. She says putting the business first came at a high personal cost. “We were such a strong, supportive unit. My deputy was an old friend, which made things more difficult. The lead-up to the final meetings – done remotely – was horrendous. I couldn’t sleep and I felt I was betraying the friendships. I know I wasn’t, but the fact that I knew something about their future that they didn’t was extremely disquieting.”