Case Study: I'm Severing Relationships With You!

Submitted by Rachel Shackleton

This case revolves around the process for making a remote team member redundant.  In this case, Green Key was not part of the process, just the observer, however the way that this person was made redundant, made me sit up and listen and to feel with empathy at the reaction to the loss of their job and the domino effect that can have on one’s life, certainly initially.  Perhaps with time that changes and the realisation that the loss of a particular job has done this person, and anyone else in this position, a favour by opening up personal thinking and questioning around:

  • What do I really want to do?
  • What makes my heart sing?
  • Do I want to commute?
  • What am I really talented at doing?
  • What other opportunities are out there? 


The employee in question has been working for this company for approximately 7 years in the role of course developer for inhouse training, both face-to-face and e-Learning.  The latter taking most of her time.  Due to the COVID19 pandemic, she was put on furlough until recently when she was made redundant after 6 months of being on furlough.

This particular employee, in her last appraisal, just before lockdown was rated as an “exceptional employee” for her contribution, willingness, productivity and creativity in how she develops on-line learning.  Summary of the appraisal was “to keep doing more of what you are doing as we are very glad to have you in the team and that your work is benefiting other team members in how they learn as well as performance of the organisation as a whole.”

On checking in regularly with her boss to understand when furlough was to come to an end, she was given no inkling that redundancy might be on the cards. However, in mid September she saw on the website that the company is hiring for a similar position to her own position.  As the job description was in line with her skills, she expected that she would be encouraged to put herself forward for the job.  When her boss requested to arrange a call, this is what she thought the conversation would be about.  She was wrong?  Instead the call with her boss was to make her redundant. How did the conversation go?

“Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.  I want you to know that I am severing relationships with you as of x date.”  When the employee tried to understand through normal questioning in such circumstance, her boss kept on repeating the same information over and over, like a broken record.  There was no empathy, no thank you for her contribution and no explanation for the situation and why it had come to this.  Rather leaving the employee to work this out for herself.

The employee was shocked that her boss of so many years could give no explanation around the decision, rather leaving it to her to work out why she, in particular has been let go.  The initial response was one of shock and amazement.  Not just at the fact that she has been made redundant, but the fact that there was no empathy, no listening, and no supporting her at least through empathetic listening on receiving this less than welcome news, at this difficult time in the business world.   That was all she received in way of an explanation and he ended the call.

The company values of “Put the customer first always”, “Work together, be inclusive,” and “Be curious, be your best”, how do these translate into making someone redundant, irrelevant of how exceptional that employee has been?

Company values form the foundation of every decision, work process, action and communication internally and externally that occurs in a company.  These are the guidelines, for how every employee from the top down go about their job, how they interact with one another and how they interact with the customer.  How did it go so wrong at the end?

I firmly believe that no company takes the decision lightly to make employees redundant, if not absolutely necessary for the survival of the company and at least a percentage of the employee numbers.  Connecting the decision and delivery in a humane manner is critical to how the employee reacts, the emotional impact on them as well as the person having those critical conversations.  As a manager and leader being able to put your hand on your heart, knowing that you did the best you could do in these circumstances makes living with yourself and the decision understandable, as well as acceptable.

  • What image does this leave in the employee’s eyes about this company?
  • How do you think the ex-employee will talk about her past employer?
  • How could this have been done differently to manage company goals and needs, legislative requirements, and the needs of the employee in this situation?
  • Do you have any thoughts around how this manager can be guided to do, what is not an easy task, but a reality all too often, in a way that upholds company values?


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