The Day After

First, a little transparency: No one at Talk of the Nation was laid off yesterday. However, more than 60 colleagues were, and it's kind of hard to think about anything else. Since I was fortunate to keep my job in this round of cuts, I have the luxury of taking a step back from the scene. Layoffs are horrible, that much is clear. But what's not so clear is whether there's a right way to slash a staff. It's obvious that there are a lot of wrong ways — like the employees who found out via the company blog that they'd been let go, for instance — that fuel idioms like "getting the ax" and "slayoffs." Closed-door meetings, pink slips, "packets." Scary stuff. But can there really be an acceptable way to do layoffs? I'd hate to fire one person, much less tens or hundreds. I think I'd rather be a worker bee for life.

There's a lot of advice for bosses out there about how to do it humanely. Do it respectfully and give real reasons for the layoffs. Keep rumors to a minimum. Don't march them out the door with security. It's all good advice, but when it comes down to it, there's no nice way. And I have to think — to hope, even — that it's almost as hard on the fire-er as it is on the fire-ee. If you've been laid off, is there anything in the way your former employer did it that you admired, however grudgingly?

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