Layoffs – Something Both Sides Despise

Date PublishedFebruary 6, 2015
CompanyTIHEM Consulting
Article AuthorT.J. Ross
Article TypeFebruary 2015 Issue
PULSE Interactive

Layoffs – Something Both Sides Despise

I feel like I have earned my grey hair, and I view it as a badge of honour. When I look in the mirror now I realize I am entering a new phase which seems to be watching the grey hair disappear. Reflecting on the news headlines of the day, I thought a good topic would be the unfortunate reality of having to lay people off. Personally, I would rather have a root canal than to layoff an employee.

Road to Recovery Words on Pavement - Up ArrowI have come to accept part of my function as a manager is to let people go (laying­off/firing). Poor performers must be given an opportunity to succeed. You need to give people a chance, which means: 1 being clear and honest about the problem, 2 setting clear goals that must be accomplished with an open door to help if needed, and 3 a clear and definitive timeline of when the goal(s) must be met. Once you have given the person the opportunity and the timeline, it is up to them to succeed or fail. If they fail, then you need to make the final decision.

It is never easy, but this is the role. Take it or leave it! I have never enjoyed firing people, mostly those failures are mine. I hired the wrong person and I didn’t set them up to succeed. Laying people off, however, is my biggest nightmare. The people who work for me rely on me just as much as the company I work for relies on me to be a savvy businessperson that looks for trends, improves the bottom­ line, as well as focusing on diversification and bringing in new customers. Sitting in a room with a good employee and telling them I haven’t been able to bring in enough work is horrible.

Most companies realize you invest in your employees as they are trained. Therefore, rather than waste an investment, we try to do everything in our power to retain staff regardless of the economic situation. We always cut everything else until we are well into the bone before we look to lay people off.

This is a difficult area to mentor companies through. I can’t tell you what is right or wrong because I don’t think any company, no matter how profit driven, takes this situation lightly. I am sure the ideas I am about to present are things you have already thought of, but I wanted to share some alternatives we have used in the past to avoid layoffs.

On several occasions, I have worked with my competitors to share employees. Just because you are slow doesn’t mean your competitors are. It takes a handshake to ensure your employees are not stolen, and that is not to say the employee will want to come back after your business returns to normal, but I have reached agreements with both competitors and employees allowing them to continue working with the end goal of returning to work for me. I have also taken in employees, under the same circumstance. Companies may be competitors, but we all value our employees and these types of arrangements can be made. The key to this arrangement is total openness and honesty about the situation. It will take a leap of faith or trust, but I have seen this work incredibly well and have not experienced any issues as a result.

Pink Slip - Organizational Chart

Reducing hours is my preference instead of reducing wages. Often companies reduce wages and then “forget” to increase them at the right time. When business picks up and an employee’s wage is still reduced, it can affect company morale immediately and can have an impact on your corporate culture. Also, it is paramount when work returns to normal, that you celebrate and profusely thank your entire staff. I mean you have to go over the top – a simple handshake will not do the trick. Companies often get right back into the swing of things and forget to sincerely and deeply acknowledge those who sacrificed their incomes. If this is set up right, the people affected end up with a 4 ­day work week and in extreme cases a 3­ day work week. There is potential risk, because the person will probably look for another job, but if you speak with your staff, you will probably find a percentage will be financially able to reduce hours in this way and may even be very happy with this type of arrangement. It takes knowing or getting to know your people to make this work best.

Helping them find another job before you lay them off. WHAT??? I know ­ that just seems insane, and this will not work if you need to lay­off a lot of people. I get that you’re not an employment agency. What I can guarantee you is if you help your employees to this degree, you will certainly lose some. I mean that is the intention, right? Let me say when things turn around and when your ad goes back in the paper, don’t be surprised to find how loyal people are to your company when you go to great lengths to ensure their financial safety. I have only done this for a few key employees and those people still work for me today. I didn’t have to lure them back. In the end, they came to me. I didn’t have to seek them out.

Alberta is getting beaten up a bit in the media right now. It seems as if we are expected to take it on the chin. Our companies are resilient and deeply rooted in our communities. I have lived here my entire life and I have seen this economic cycle many times. Each time it feels as if it will last forever and inevitably the economy comes around. The world envies us, which is why they love to take a swing at us whenever they get the chance. This is the strongest province in Canada and the best place in the world to live if you are an everyday average Joe/Joanne. I wish you all the best in your endeavours to get through what will amount to a blip on the radar screen when we look back and reminisce. Don’t let the media get you down.

Headshot - Male

T.J. Ross

Oilfield PULSE Feb 2015 Cover





This article originally appeared in the

February 2015 issue of Oilfield PULSE