Twice, I have lead companies through economic downturns. The first time we had to lay off so many employees, it was a Mass Layoff under WARN the week before Christmas in 2001. It was definitely challenging and not fun. Lee Hecht Harrison was on site that day, saw the RIF binder I had created for each employee, and offered to buy the template. They had never seen so much care given to help those impacted by a layoff. Unfortunately, around the time of the layoffs, the employees received holiday cards in the mail from the COO. The front of the card had him standing in a snow globe making the company’s “X” from the logo and the inside was signed “Yours to count on.” The layoff/holiday card fiasco was a leading story in the Washington Post’s business section the next day. Working through that insensitivity with both those laid off and the employees we kept was an unexpected challenge. However, as the company’s financial situation improved, many of those laid off came back to work for us. The care, honesty, and overall tenor of how my team and I handled the situations outweighed any negativity.
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