Want to Spook Your Employees? Warn Them About Possible Layoffs

© Gino Santa Maria - Fotolia.com
© Gino Santa Maria - Fotolia.com

Here’s something that every manager and executive should always keep in mind: injecting job uncertainty into your workforce is NEVER a smart move.

I worked at a place once that announced a coming reorganization that was going to happen about a month down the road. The genius who thought this up also decided that everyone on the staff was going to have to “reapply” for their job, and what was left vague and unsaid was that a) you might not get to keep your old job; and, b) you might not get to keep any job at all.

Needless to say, the anxiety level of the staff skyrocketed, and it kept getting worse as D-Day for the reorganization drew near. More importantly, people were so fixated on the reorganization, and what it meant to them personally, that productivity plummeted. In the desire to be open about the reorg, the executive who dreamed it all up damn near killed the business.

That’s why this Wall Street Journal story about about how morale at Bank of America has turned “ugly” in the wake of the announcement of up to 30,000 layoffs is not all that surprising, because a proclamation like that can shake the foundations of a company’s workforce to the core.

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Whether making such an announcement so far ahead of the layoff is viewed as kind or torturous depends on your perspective, I suppose, but why am I not surprised that it is a company like BofA that is once again in the middle of this kind of mess? Read the story and decide for yourself.

Morale quickly turns ugly after a company warns about layoffs — even if the job cuts won’t happen for a while.

Just announcing the intent to “reduce head count” — as Bank of America Corp. and some other financial firms have done recently — can distract workers, hurt recruiting efforts and prompt top performers to head for the exit.

Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan told employees in an internal email last week that “overall employment levels” at the bank would come down by 30,000 over the next few years.

Rumors of massive layoffs had been rippling through the ranks for months, according to one senior analyst at Bank of America. “A lot of people are really scared about what’s going to happen,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s not looking [for another job].”

For more of this story, click here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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