All around us are examples of recent, current or impending layoffs of employees of all kinds of organizations - businesses, schools, nonprofits, churches and even governmental units. There is clear data available showing how important jobs are to a person’s identity and self-esteem and how traumatic it is for anyone to lose their job for any reason. The trauma is often ranked very high, akin to the death of someone close.
Is there a way to perform layoffs that’s in line with God’s kingdom or is it a process that’s rotten all the way through? How should Christian employers face this sometimes unavoidable task?
Letting someone go should be handled very carefully and sensitively, particularly with the employee but also with the remaining employees. Managers should be clear and direct, but also thoughtful and kind and be aware of the likely significant impact on the employee and their family. Managers should never make light of a termination or joke about it when notifying an employee. Loving compassion, gentleness and kindness should be shown.
While some human resource consultants might recommend ushering a person to clean out their workspace and out the door immediately after notification due to potential negative reactions from the employee, I think wisdom and compassion should also be used and some time allowed for the employee to absorb the new information and adjust. I have heard of too many instances when this was handled very poorly and insensitively, more out of fear for what might happen than a concern for the welfare of the employee. There needs to be a balance, but it should not tilt so far out of fear that the person is humiliated or treated poorly. Loving the person is more important than fear of reprisal for doing the right thing.
In our fairly litigious society, some employers are very reluctant to provide any kind of references for previous employees out of fear for potential lawsuits. I’m not sure if Christian managers are really doing a service to their previous employee nor to the organizations that might potentially hire them if they refuse to share honest answers. Wisdom and care should be used and legal requirements should be followed, but concern for the individual and the wider community should also be considered. Some employers are not open or willing to provide references for recently laid-off employees who are looking for another position. It seems to me that Christian employers who are trying to live the Golden Rule should try to assist a recent employee in finding another position.
Employers who find they must lay off some employees can provide office resources to help those employees write resumes and cover letters, as well as reviewing them and offering helpful comments, use of office space, phones, copiers and computers for a designated amount of time. They can also provide services of placement agencies and use their own networks and contacts to make referrals or helpful suggestions. Employers should be as generous financially as they can with severance packages and accrued time off.
It is especially important after a layoff to continue to maintain personal contact and lasting relationships, which go beyond a job even if the employment relationship ends. Relationships are eternal, while jobs and organizations are not. For Christians life is about loving God and loving other people, including our co-workers.