Corporate change is everywhere. And, the film and film distribution business
is no exception. Catalysts are many: a global economy, monetary fluctuations,
free trade agreements (or stiff import fees), shifts in production to
offshore locations and competitive local conditions, to name only a few.
A frequent result of corporate change is employee terminations - an unpleasant
and costly action. Dismissals often can have negative impact productivity,
lawsuits can be filed by affected employees, and sometimes workplace violence
However, there are methods that can make this difficult task less expensive
and stressful for management, as well as less distasteful for employees.
The key to any successful termination is the employee perception that,
"the company cares." This means that the dismissal must be done in a compassionate
way, with a fair severance offered (preferably two weeks per year of service,
but a minimum of one), continuation of paid medical benefits for the severance
period, and job-search assistance in the form of outplacement services.
Job-search help can include one or two-day workshops for lower level employees
and more lengthy one-on-one coaching for more senior supervisors/management.
The impression that the company is giving a "helping hand during a time
of change" is important to outgoing, as well as remaining, employees.
It's a fact that, if terminations are handled in a caring and compassionate
way, few (if any) wrongful termination lawsuits will be filed.
Now, that may sound like a far-out statement, but in my many years as
a counselor to thousands of terminated employees, none has ever brought
a wrongful discharge suit to trial. How can that be? What's the secret?
When an employee is fired, he or she is usually upset. Someone in a state
of mental turmoil will lash out at the former employer in every possible
way. The typical outcry is, "I'm gonna get 'em." And, their next thought
is a lawsuit - or worse, an AK47 attack against the company and/or individual(s)
doing the firing.
Immediately after a dismissal, an individual's greatest need is for counseling.
The counselor can be a company employee, but such a person represents
the "enemy" and usually won't be very effective. It's better to use an
outsider who is skilled in dealing with such situations, such as a career
The counselor lets the terminated employee express feelings of anguish
and hostility. This process of venting will calm most terminated workers,
diffusing their anger.
If a lawsuit is threatened, the counselor points out a few facts of life.
One of these is that it's rare that a wrongful discharge suit will be
won by a former employee. And, equally important, is that a lawyer may
want some money upon taking the case, even if it's on a contingency basis
(where the attorney gets paid only if the case is successful).
Counselors also can use the strongest argument of all for employees not
to file wrongful discharge lawsuits: Few employers will hire someone who's
involved in such litigation. It can take years to resolve these cases.
In the meantime, prospective employers may say, "If this applicant sued
a former boss, the same might happen to us. Why hire a potential troublemaker?"
Of course, a generous and fair termination package can greatly aid the
counselor in turning the dismissed employee's mind from looking backward
in anger to looking forward in confidence, thus aiding the search for
a new and fulfilling job.
The image of the terminating organization is also important for customers,
vendors, the press and the community in general. One that's viewed as
compassionate in these circles, scores many public relations points everywhere.
So, never throw redundant employees on the street with little, or no,
continued financial benefits and job-search assistance. It may seem like
being penny wise at termination time, but it's really pound foolish in
the long run - both from a legal and public image perspective.
Corporate change is everywhere, and employees know it. It's how this change
is handled that makes the difference between employees accepting it and
deciding to "get em."