Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Confronting an empty desk – from the employee perspective

Posted in HR and personnel, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 26, 2011

You work for a business and you may very well find you have gotten into a pattern of performance and expectations and with much of this simply taken for granted. Then you come into work one morning, and probably some Monday morning and you find the desk next to yours, or one in your area empty and someone on your team is now gone. How do you feel? What immediately goes through your mind?

You work for Human Resources, or you are a manager who has had to lay off a member of your team and you have to deal with the survivors of that. How do you feel and what is going through your mind?

This is the first of two postings, looking at the issues revolving around layoffs, firings, downsizings, terminations … the next day and for the people left behind. I will be looking at this from both sides of the employee/management table and offer both postings together, consecutively. This is definitely an area where it is important to understand how others involved see things, if you and they are to effectively move on.

I write this first of two from the perspective of employees and team members who find a peer’s desk vacated and that peer now gone. I add that I write this from personal experience and in acknowledgement of the simple fact that many if not most of us have arrived at work to find a colleague missing, and not through retirement or a planned move.

How do you feel when that happens? Uncertain and definitely if any disagreements between the now missing and their supervisor were kept behind closed doors – and I note here that most businesses follow personnel and Human Resources guidelines that would strive to keep third parties uninformed to protect confidentiality and privacy for the employee under unfavorable review. So a firing or individual layoff is likely to catch a lot of people by surprise. And a larger downsizing is not something that would be announced with a “hit list” posted in advance either. Survivors of these events always feel at least a measure of concern, as to what happened and why, and whether they are in some way vulnerable too.

I will add that managers and others who may know why this happened are constrained from talking, and certainly where that may mean speaking out negatively about anyone – the person or people laid off definitely included. Silence in and of itself may avoid confidentiality problems and limit legal liability but it can also cause concerns and problems.

So if hiring managers, Human Resources and others are constrained in what they can say, what should they say to limit rumors and still concern? I will address this in my next posting, tomorrow. I have chosen to post both of these postings in two directories: HR and Personnel and my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, (there as a supplemental posting.)

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