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How to Manage Coronavirus Layoffs with Compassion

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Illustration by Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, the damage to the job market looks likely to be deep and long lasting. Managers are not only dealing with the stress and sadness of having to let go of a large number of their workers, many of them are also feeling underlying anxiety about their own positions. Even if laying off employees is the only way to keep the organization running, how do you handle your feelings of guilt and sadness? How should you deliver the news when you can’t meet face-to-face? What should you say to your employees who remain? And what can you do to manage fear about your own future?
What the Experts Say
Laying off employees is difficult in normal times; but amidst the Covid-19 global health crisis, the task is “emotionally and cognitively overwhelming,” according to Joshua Margolis, a professor at Harvard Business School. “This experience for most of us is unfathomable,” he says. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty and people’s …

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