managemnet company strategy managemanet Preparing to Announce Layoffs in a Virtual Meeting

Preparing to Announce Layoffs in a Virtual Meeting

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If your team is preparing to announce layoffs in the near future, calculated preparation for your executive team is essential. This isn’t just another Zoom meeting; it’s an announcement that affects people’s livelihoods and the future of your organization. With the right preparation, however, you can effectively and compassionately address layoffs online. You should do the following: first, block rehearsal time to prepare yourself. Visualize your audience as employees to show empathy. Use body language effectively to come across as genuine. Look directly into the camera to show honesty. And finally, stay calm and show confidence by remembering to breathe.

With meetings, job interviews, and even social events, dismissal entered the virtual era. It is, after all, inevitable. In a recent McKinsey study, 35 percent of respondents reported that they were able to work remotely full time. The logic follows that if someone works remotely, they can also be fired remotely.

But it does not give the managers and leaders of the company to handle the matter without sensitivity and compassion. In fact, it means the opposite. As many of us are now familiar with platforms like Zoom and Webex, expressing emotion and committing to it is not easy for most of us. This is a problem because a lot is at stake when employees are laid off.

If your team is preparing to announce layoffs in the near future, calculated preparation for your executive team is essential. This isn’t just another Zoom meeting; it’s an announcement that affects people’s livelihoods and the future of your organization. Not only do executives risk losing the trust of the rest of the employees and other stakeholders, but they can also headlines for the heartless “Zoom firings” and faced backlash on social media.

However, with the right preparation, an executive can effectively and compassionately address online layoffs. Here’s how your team can prepare and deliver virtual announcements.

Block rehearsal time.

Preparation for removal should not be rushed. Skimming a script written by a communications team is not enough preparation. Yet more often than not, this is what I see executives do. Instead, remember the elementary mantra: practice makes perfect.

Once the announcement date is on the calendar, block off rehearsal time, preferably a few days before the announcement. Use this time to make sure the message is written and legally approved a few days before the announcement, and that you have enough time to review the script, make any changes, and read it several times.

You might think you don’t need a lot of time to prepare – but you do. You must be comfortable with the material to be confident, calm, and trustworthy. You also need time to break down the speech into bullet points and know what to convey in each point.

Whether you’re reading a script or using a teleprompter, you’ll need several rehearsals before the audience trusts your delivery as genuine. Alternatively, you can secure Post-It notes to your computer monitor or place a second monitor behind the camera with bullet points to stay on point.

Visualization exercises are important.

It’s hard to deliver a message online, where you don’t have a physical audience to make an emotional connection with. To make that emotional connection with Zoom, you need to imagine the audience. To do this, consider the following:

  • Where is the audience watching from? House? The office?
  • Who is with them? How many families? Colleagues?
  • How will they feel when they hear the news?
  • What are their immediate concerns?
  • What can they ask that I can answer right away?
  • What fear can I relieve?

You can take this a step further by creating “avatars” that represent key employees, such as a 45-year-old father of three or a 63-year-old woman nearing retirement. You can pretend you are talking directly to these specific employees, discuss their fears, and try to calm them down.

Watch your body language.

Body language is important. Your audience will look for signs that you are nervous. If you fiddle with your wedding ring, move your glasses, touch your face, scratch your beard, or shift or swivel in your chair, they may take this as a sign that they don’t trust you. Instead, to look more involved, try leaning a little more into the camera.

Many executives are taught not to use their hands when speaking. This is terrible advice, because our hands help express emotion and love. If we are forbidden to use it, we can become stubborn. Especially relevant to this conversation, if we keep our hands out of sight, it may suggest that we have something to hide. For all these reasons, you should be encouraged to use your hands naturally when you speak.

Look directly at the camera.

Getting the right camera shot is also important. The camera should be at eye level. If the camera is lower than your face, you will look too polite. If the camera is too high, you will look tame. While speaking, look directly into the camera ā€” not at individual audience members who appear in boxes on the screen. This allows you to maintain eye contact with each employee.

The exception to this rule is if you take questions after the announcement. In this case, you should look at the employees’ computer monitor while they are asking questions. This is natural and helps you “read the room.”

Remember to breathe.

Understandably nervous at a meeting like this; you may be carrying a lot of your own emotions and you may feel anger or shame. It is important to remember to breathe. Not only does it help you do your job, but anxiety can change a person’s voice. In order to show strength and confidence, it is important to try to counter it with proper breathing.

Before you begin your announcement, take a deep belly breath that activates the diaphragm and expands your belly. Do this again after the first two or three sentences. And keep doing it. Without these breaths, you won’t get full lung capacity, and the words at the end of your sentences may break off when you run out of breath. This will make you less confident.

Support employees when they need it.

Layoffs are never easy; they are even harder if you do it right, by thinking about the people who will be affected by job loss and uncertainty. Adding to the mix the difficulties of virtual communication makes it even more difficult.

However, with the right preparation, mindset, and body language, your leadership team can deliver difficult news effectively and compassionately. If you deliver the message well, former employees will feel supported and respected. Meanwhile, the remaining employees will feel motivated to keep working because you reassure them that the company is headed in the right direction.

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