Issue Date: Dealer Business Briefing June 15, 2012, Posted On: 6/18/2012
Advice for office managers: Bad news is unavoidable – but backlash can be minimized Every day dealership CFOs, controllers and office managers are faced with telling employees "no" and other news they don't want to hear. You can make it easier on yourself and others.
February 28 was a very dark day John's Auto Plaza in San Rafael, Calif. The owner, saddled with an expensive divorce case, unexpectedly closed his 23-year-old dealership and laid off 109 workers.
"Shock and sadness were pervasive in the dealership" reported the Marin Independent Journal. The service manager told the paper that everyone - including him - was in tears.
The dealership could also face a civil penalty of $500 per employee per day - and may owe back pay and benefits - for its failure to comply with the federal and state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification law (WARN) which require that employers of a certain size notify workers 60 days in advance of pending layoffs.
While this is an extreme case, all bad news is better off handled with care. So what's the best way to tell someone money is tight, they're being let go, or a million other possible scenarios?
Put yourself in their shoes. Look at it from their point of view. Managers often give news in a way that's good to the business but bad for the employee.
If you tell them, "commissions are being cut, hours changed and location moved, they'll look at if from the 'what's happening to me?'" perspective.
Also devote enough time and attention to sharing bad news.
The worst thing is to chicken out and send an e-mail.
One worker sued his former employer when he was let go via a voicemail message on his cell phone. He said that if they had the courtesy to talk to me I would've felt different about it.
Really bad news needs to have a person come with it. That person can care and be concerned, answer questions, and take anger and tears.
How much information should you share? As much as they need to understand the action being taken and for you to have credibility. If you're announcing a 10 percent budget cut, people ask if the business is in trouble and where did this come from. Be willing to answer questions. If you can't share certain information, tell them that you can't for competitive reasons.
When should you disseminate bad news? It's better at the end of the day, as long as you allow them enough time to talk about it. Avoid doing it the last thing Friday afternoon - they'll stew and be anxious all weekend - or in the morning. You don't want a bunch of ticked off people talking to your customers all day.
Receiving big, non-urgent purchasing requests? Just say 'it's not in the budget at the present time' - most of the time they know that.
Requiring employees to familiarize themselves with the employee handbook and discussing behavior or performance issues before they escalate out of control also helps.