Kick off the clogs and break the bad news

Bad news goes about in clogs, good news in stockinged feet, or so the old
saying goes. Personally, I prefer to treat bad news like a hand grenade. People
can see you holding it, so don’t tease them ­ throw it and be ready to pick up
the pieces.

Bad news is bad news. There’s no way of dressing it up, and the kindest thing
to do ultimately is to be straight with people. Poor results, redundancies,
scandals ­ the economy remains awash with bad news at the moment, and the
accountancy profession has certainly suffered, with any practice exposed to the
shortfall in M&A work likely to be forced into making non-voluntary

This is always painful, and your natural reaction to giving the news may well
be to withhold it for as long as possible. This is understandable; in terms of
unpleasantness giving bad news is perhaps second only to getting it. A method I
find useful in these situations is the CAP plan; concern, action, perspective.

First and foremost, concern for the individual facing the sack must be your
absolute priority ­ remember you’re dealing with a person and not, as that awful
modern phrase has it, a human resource. Look the employee in the eye and tell it
to them straight; don’t brush them off with talk of corporate plans or your own
efforts to streamline the business.

Thankfully, the industry’s reputation for integrity is well-deserved; people
management at most firms should be a far cry from horror stories of workers
being dismissed by text message or email.

Next comes action. Demonstrate to the employee what you’ve done to keep them,
what you’re doing to help soften the blow (a generous redundancy package will
always help here), and that nothing more can be done to keep people on amid such
tough circumstances.

Finally, help them keep things in perspective by discussing their future
prospects in the industry, the likelihood of things picking up again, and the
possibility of rejoining the firm again when they do.

When the recovery takes hold, professional services firms will be among those
best placed to profit from an upswing in demand, and bringing people back on
board who know your business inside out is often the quickest way to raise
capacity again.

Jack Downton is MD of The Influence Business

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