Management 306

Week 09

Hi everyone. It is time to rate the layoffs memo. Now, once again you'll see there's samples on the website. You're free to use those to imitate. You cannot copy them. And then the assignment link is also on the website. So, I'm going to be reading the assignment and discussing it. And as before, I have four aspects I want you to consider, audience, purpose, structure and style. This is a fairly lengthy assignment instruction because there's more involved. And this is an example of bad news and because it is an example of bad news please be sure to review the lecture material, the lecture assignment that came before this, because I do have a pretty specific structure for the most effective way to convey bad news. All right, the assignment itself. You are the senior vice president of human resources for a financial software company that has 7500 employees. In the past the company has focused on selling a software product, Account Soft to large accounting firms. However, Account Soft has suffered declining sales for the past two years and management has decided to change the focus of the company to sell to small businesses and individuals. Because Account Soft no longer fits with the mission of the company it will be sold to another financial software company, Account Support Services Inc. or ASS. The same of Account Soft to Account Support Services will affect two groups of employees in the Account Soft division. Software developers will transfer to the acquiring firm, but the sales and marketing staff, about 150 people, will be leaving. This was the agreement with Account Support Services as part of the acquisition deal. To announce the changing company mission the sale of Account Soft and the upcoming layoffs you advise the CEO to send an email to all employees. You are tasked with writing the email that will be sent under the CEO's name, in addition you will have individual conversations with employees by the layoffs. Write the memo to communicate the decision clearly and help employees understand and accept the change. Now there's quite a bit going on. Please note that the name of the software company is an unknown, it doesn't have a name, so you'll need to come up with a name for that. The other names like Account Soft and Account Support Services are known. So, the four elements, audience, purpose, structure and style, let me start with audience. Though you are writing to all 7500 employees, the sale of Account Soft does not affect everyone the same. 2% of all employees will be laid off, that's the sales and marketing staff by the way, and an unknown number will be transferred to Account Support Services. The remainder will remain with the company, but will need to understand how the change affects their jobs. So, as you construct your response, as you construct this memo you have a number of different things to include in the memo, because first of all, you have at least three separate groups of people who are your audience. You have the people directly affected by this change, the sales of Account Soft, the sales and marketing staff who you will be laying off. They will be losing their jobs. You need to announce that and be very clear about that. Then you have people who will not directly be losing their job, but they will be transferred to another company and how many of those employees they remain with that company is unknown, they're being transferred over and that company then makes decisions about their positions. So you have no knowledge of that. There's no specific number set here, but it wouldn't be a very large number, so it's still a very tiny amount of the overall number of employees in the company. Then you finally your last group that you are addressing, your audience, the remainder of the employees. The remainder over 7000 employees who will not be leaving the company, who will not be getting laid off, who will not be getting transferred, they will remain with the company. But the mission of the company is now to focus on selling to small businesses, not to large businesses, so you're changing the mission. So you have three different audiences in this same memo that you have to address. Each group has different views of this, each group will have different needs and you have to communicate this information to all three within the same memo. So this is a very complex piece of writing and it's also bad news, which makes it even more complex. Purpose, your purpose is to communicate the decision, the facts led up to the decision, inform those directly affected by the decision and inform those not directly by the decision and convey to all remaining employees the future plans of the company. Be sure to include specific dates when the changes will occur. So, in addition to having to communicate to three different employees, three different really pieces of information about whether they're being laid off, they're not being laid off or whether they're staying, but the company is changing direction or they're being transferred, whatever relevant to their specific situation, you should also be specific about when this will occur. The last thing you want to do is say — is leave dates out and then just say, well, this is something that's happening. You're immediately going to have all 7500 people wondering when does this happen, is this today, is this next week, is this next month, when. So, be sure to be very clear and very specific and put in very specific dates. You really want to be specific for the people being laid off, because they will be affected instantly by this. Their paychecks, their livelihoods, this is going to have an immediate and direct impact on them, so you need to be very clear about when that will happen. Structure, structure the bad news indirectly. Now as you recall from the lecture there was a very specific organization to indirect bad news. Include at least four paragraphs. The first paragraph will be the context or buffer, the second will be the explanation, the third will contain the bad news and the fourth will contain the goodwill close. That's all I have to say here in the assignment, but please go back and look at the PowerPoint specifically for ideas for what to include in the four elements. At least four paragraphs. The context, the explanation, the bad news and the close. I can tell you that for the second paragraph, the explanation, you'll need to include this information. You need to include the information about what has been happening with Account Soft, the change in mission, the sale of Account Soft, the declining sales in last year, you'll need to explain this. But in the third paragraph that's where you'll be communicating the bad news. So, when you want to — when you reach the point in your memo where you are specifically conveying bad news and you are saying to the 150 people in sales and marketing, "You will be laid off or you will be leaving." You need to save that for the third paragraph. Don't put it earlier, don't put it in the second paragraph or the first paragraph, because that by leaving it to the third paragraph after the explanation, where the explanation flows or logically leads to the layoff, that is an indirect form of bad news. If you move it up, if you stick it in the first paragraph and I have seen students just, you know, second or third sentence, "If you're in sales and marketing your job is being terminated." You know, that direct, that's very direct communication, that's not appropriate for this particular assignment. So, go back and look at the lecture material, listen to the lecture, look at the slides for how to do this bad news. Specifically indirect bad news. Finally, style. When conveying bad news tone is important. Choose a style that is clear and informative, positive and respectful. Consider the reaction to your choice of words conveying the bad news. For example, imagine the difference between saying, "Unfortunately valuable employees will be laid off," versus, "Excess employees will be dumped." Now I know that you don't typically see business communication where they talk about dumping people. Do people in the business in the world use those kinds of words? Yes, they do. They talk about cutting people, dropping people, dumping people, cutting dead wood. There's a fair amount of very critical negative ways that people are addressed in the business world, which is the business world. That is simply part of how people talk, it is part of the culture, it's not going to change, it is the way it is. That said, it's not appropriate for you in writing a memo and being a professional for you to use that kind of language. So, don't talk about cutting the dead wood, which is a cliché, which is even worse. But it's also a very negative way of referring to people and their jobs. The point I want to make about that is it's possible that you see the people being laid off differently than the people being laid off see things. In fact, it's probably very likely. So, while it may look as if people are in jobs that are not really necessary to the function of the company, people doing those jobs may see it quite differently. So, the best move, the advice it's not only in lecture, but it's, you know, me as the instructor saying to you, you know, be positive and respectful. At the same time you need to be very clear about what's going to happen. Be very informative. You don't want to hide or disguise the bad news. You have to be very clear about it. so, in class when I talk about this and I talk about this assignment, what I say is it's incumbent upon you to be extremely clear and straight forward about the bad news so that there is no confusion, that no one misunderstands you, they know exactly what's happening. You need to state very clearly for everyone in the company, the people being laid off, the people being transferred and the people remaining, who — exactly what's going to happen, when it's going to happen and who it's happening to. This is your responsibility, so because if you do that you will start the process of moving, you know, on and changing the mission from large companies to small companies. And you'll also avoid 7500 people knocking on your door asking, "I don't understand your memo, how does this affect me or what's going on?" What you want to do is avoid that by being very clear and informative in your memo itself. And I know this is a difficult assignment, do your best. Thank you.