The Virtual Layoff and Cultures in Flux

The virtual layoff is here. Jessica Kriegel, our Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture, weighs in on this new culture phenomenon in The Washington Post, arguing that McDonald’s decision to layoff corporate staff virtually was the more compassionate route:

“If I were getting laid off, would I rather be informed in a conference room and then be escorted out the hallway when I’m having very intense emotions, or would I rather hang up the Zoom call and then go cry in my pillow at my house? It’s much more compassionate for the employee to be able to have that safety.”

Jessica Kriegel, The Washington Post, April 11, 2023

With our remote-first world still being constructed, our workplace cultures — how we hold our hybrid workplaces together with purpose and shared beliefs — are far from standardized. And the question of whether layoffs can be compassionate or humane isn’t new. The new question is how relationships that are at their core transactional can also include, when they have to end, a recognition of the person, their presence and authenticity, and what they will go on to do in the world.

It’s daring to proceed with uncertainty, asking these questions. When layoffs happen, it’s important for leaders to give space for affected teams that remain to ask their questions. To rebuild with them. To take accountability. To be explicit about the need to stay on task with results and also, when you are the manager communicating an ending, initiating the kind of conversation that connects with the human right in front of you (on-screen or in person).

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