During the heyday of downsizing in corporate America, I worked as a trainer for a career consulting company and taught managers how to terminate employees with respect and dignity. It’s one of the most difficult duties a manager will ever perform; those who have done it will confirm that. I would tell managers how it happens lingers longer than what happens.
Long after separated employees have picked up their lives and moved on to new jobs their most vivid memories will not be that they were let go, but how they were let go – how the manager and the company treated them during the process.
I believe how lingers longer than what applies to many situations, not just difficult corporate layoffs. Everyday situations like:
- You get interrupted during dinner by a sales call. Do you communicate you don’t want to buy what they are selling in a nice or not-nice way?
- You need to deliver a personal message to a family member, colleague or friend. Do you deliver the message in front of others and embarrass them or courteously pull them away from the group and deliver it one-on-one in a thoughtful way?
How it happens also applies to what should be positive, pleasant situations.
- You give someone a gift. Do you make it a special event or throw it – unwrapped – across the table at them as if you can’t wait to get rid of it?
- You give someone a compliment. Can they hear in the way you deliver the compliment that you mean it, or does it sound like you have to say something but your heart isn’t in it?
I’m sure you remember a situation in your life that should have been delightful but was botched by an uncaring and inconsiderate approach. Likewise, you can remember a tough situation that was eased a bit because the person took the time and effort to handle it with grace and dignity.
It only takes a little more time and effort to deliver a message in a way the person will remember fondly, but it requires you consider how best to do it. The easiest way is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if you were the receiver.
That doesn’t always guarantee a spot on approach since people value different things, but it gives you peace of mind that you thought it through and gave it your best effort. Remember to keep respect and dignity in the equation; they are always appreciated.
It’s just something to think about ahead of time, so when you think about it later, you’ll be proud of how you handled it, and they will have the best chance of remembering it fondly.