Ben Hardy on layoffs and ethical decision making

LBS Professor discusses how to fire people and offers directors a 3-step framework for addressing sensitive issues

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With a wave of layoffs currently sweeping the tech industry, organisational behaviour is front and centre in the media at the moment. Consequently, the expertise of Ben Hardy, Clinical Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, has been much in demand lately, with media outlets including Business Insider and Forbes publishing his thoughts on how organisations can manage the difficult job of letting people go better.

Speaking to Business Insider about the recent layoffs at Google, Professor Hardy highlights how psychological safety and the unwritten psychological contract that employees have with companies play an important role in how employees respond to layoffs.

He describes three factors which can help organisations to better manage the process of letting people go in his latest article for Forbes. The first of these is framing, where he explains how providing a proper explanation and justification to employees can help to smooth the process. The second is fairness, as people are more likely to accept being let go when they believe the process was fair.

The third is follow-up. It’s not just the people who have been let go who deserve follow-up, it’s the employees who remain too. By spelling out why there have been layoffs, the process taken to arrive at a decision and by reinforcing the organisation’s purpose and values, organisations can offer some level of reassurance to the survivors too. As Professor Hardy points out “Firings aren’t pleasant. They never will be. With some care and attention, and by thinking about framing, fairness and follow-up, however, they can be made a little less unpleasant.”

Professor Hardy also has advice for board directors about some of the tricky decisions they might face. He recently spoke to Fortune about how the 2024 US election cycle might test directors’ ethics. In the article, he outlines a 3-step framework – the Three Ds of board decision-making: diversity, disagreement, and decisive decision-making to work through sensitive issues and make smart choices. You can also read more about Professor Hardy’s Three Ds of ethical decision-making in an article he wrote for Forbes recently.