Senior Manager - Hr | Trainer
Korgaonkar K A
+2 Others

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A manager who has been given a mandate to reduce organisation workforce. He has to choose the employees to be fired from his team this week. No matter what he tells them, they will feel hurt and curse him for wreaking havoc on their families and their careers. How does he deals with this guilt and make it less painful for all of them?

In the Mahabharata, when the Pandava brothers inherit a forest, Khandava-prastha, and want to build on it a great city, named Indra-prastha, the city of Indra, Krishna says, “Then burn the forest. Set aflame every plant, every animal, every bird and every bee. Offer them to agni.” When the Pandavas express their horror at the suggestion, Krishna says “then do not dream of the city.”

Hunger (bhook) demands food (bhog). Consumption demands sacrifice (bali). Sacrifices has consequences. This is the bitter pill of life that a leader has swallow if he wants to builds Indra-prastha.

If the company is not doing well, if the revenue is not up to the mark, if the profits are not as expected, the costs will be cut. It is terrible that the situation has now reached a point that people have to lose jobs. It will be painful. There will be no escape.

The pain is not so much the loss of a job, but the impact that has on self-image, self-worth and self-esteem of the person losing the job. For it makes the person feel he is less worthy and less competent than those whose jobs were not cut. He will feel he is lowest in the pecking order. The psychological impact is terrible. So as senior manager, it is important to ensure that while you break the contract, you do not destroy their relationship with you. You have to ensure the dignity of the men and women concerned are maintained, remind them that the job is cut not because they are inferior but because things are just not working out with the company. Avoid the inhuman pink-slip practices common in many multinational companies where a person is consciously humiliated by being escorted out by security personnel and asked to collect their belongings at the gate.

The Vedic scriptures say that every person has three bodies: the physical body (sthula sharira), the mental body (sukshma sharira) and the social body (karana sharira). The physical body is what we see, the mental body is what we imagine ourselves to be and the social body is our location in society and organization. When a person is being fired, the social body is dying but like old clothes discarded, it will be replaced by a new body. You as senior manager have to ensure that the death of the social body does not kill the mental body.

Your guilt is rooted in your own fear. The idea that you too could well be at the receiving end of such a gesture terrifies you. The consumer fears being consumed. You see this task as a burden you have to bear as a senior manager of the company. You do not see it as a necessary act for the good of the company with an unfortunate consequence. You see yourself as a victim of an organizational demand and a villain in the eyes of your team. But these are mental images that we construct in fear. In fear, the rest of your team will work harder, terrified that they will be next. This is unavoidable. In crisis, fear grips organizations. As senior manager, you have to acknowledge this fear, clarify what is and what is not in your control or influence, and avoid sweeping emotions under the carpet.

Dear Mr.Somanath,
A great description. Really appreciate the advise by you wrt the way forward. As a leader need to take tough decisions but it should be with out hurting the people, communicate the situation forecasted, prepare them for the future and make them to act in the interest of their personal and organizational benefits.
Once again I appreciate your efforts & the wisdom.
Thanks and regards - kamesh

Dear Mr.Mukherjee

I have gone through your post.I respect the sentiments embedded in it and regard the emotions which it seeks to get over.It is the least which a HR professional wants to be in his career.But the post at the same time underlines the importance and the need for HR professionals to develop deep understanding about life,it's changes and challenges, most of which are unpredictable to enable them to handle such turbulence with equanimity and poise because a lesser mortal gets mired in confusion and conflict(of his own emotions).Befitting such challenging situations is a prayer which I read some where but may not exactly reproduce it. However the essence of the prayer is like this.

Oh, God

Give me the power to change what I can

Give me the courage to accept what I cannot and

Give me the wisdom to understand the difference between the two.

Such wisdom is needed to handle pain in life. Coming to the action part in such crisis, when the inevitable strikes us, we need to be proactive but not reactive to deal with the crisis.some proactive steps that a HR can take in such situations, in my view , can be ---

1) Make the staff slowly aware of the impending event soa s to prepare them better for the ultimate instead of breaking the news all of a sudden.

2) In the meantime, enlist the cooperation of some dependable recruitment consultant as an organisational effort, to relocate the employees elsewhere.

3) Work out some ex-gratia /compensation for those who could not be rehabilitated elsewhere.

4)Set up a rehabilitation cell in the organisation to register the names of the employees to help them with employment post termination through activating own network/circles by every member of the top management.

5)Ensure their exit is honorable and make them aware that the organisation is grateful for their service.

Hope these gestures on the part of the organisation may alleviate the hurt and pain to a large extent.

So far as the lessons that can be learnt from such experiences are concerned are that the sea of life will be sometimes smooth and sometimes rough and it is only the rough sea that makes one a skillful mariner.Probably it is the life's way to strengthen our skills for survival.

Mr.Mukherjee, thanks for such a thought provoking post.


HR & IR Advisor

Dear Sai Kumar ji.

Yes, I too thankful to Mr.Mukherjee for his thoughful provoking post. More than it I am thankful to you for your very valuable and remedial inputs to HR fraternity with prayer which I would like to repeat as given by you so that it will fit in to my mind, in to my soul.

Oh, God

Give me the power to change what I can

Give me the courage to accept what I cannot and

Give me the wisdom to understand the difference between the two.

Incidentally, on reading the post by Mr.Mukherjee repeatedly I thought of goggling when I surprisingly found an article on same material by Mr.Mukherjee published in Economic Times on 16th Sept. 2014 by Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik, who is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group.

Since the post of Mr. Mukherjee is dated 12th Sept 2014 i.e. before the article by Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik, I had done deep goggling. In this goggling I found three more similar material by different posters but ultimately I could conclude that the original work is of Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik during September 2012.

Dear Somnath Mukherjee,
While thanking you for your thoughtful provoking post, let me caution you that such kind of copy paste is a violation of copy right, in my view.
Also According to section 43 (b) of IT Act 2000, if any person without permission of the owner or any other person who is incharge of computer, computer system or computer network - downloads, copies or extracts any data base or information from such computer, computer system or computer network including information or data held or stored in any removable storage medium; he shall be liable to pay damages by way of compensation not exceeding one crore rupees to the person so affected.
I am an ordinary contributing member of this forum. I don't know how far it is correct on my part to caution you, still as a friend I did it.

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