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I Turned My Layoff into a Learning Lesson and Became My Own CEO — Here Are the Lessons I Learned Along the Way Your employees are the foundation of your success — let's strive to create a business landscape where hiring for success and acts of compassion become the norm.

By Randy Boldyga Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Drawing from my personal experience of being laid off, here is guidance to my fellow leaders on managing layoffs.
  • Empathy is a strategic advantage, not just a nicety.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In my late twenties, I worked as a government contractor at a subsidiary of Black & Decker. Without much warning, my division's contract was terminated, and I was given two choices: either work for the new employer at their proposed rate or leave the contract jobless.

Rather than leaving us out in the cold, the leaders at Black & Decker showed compassion. They provided me and my colleagues with other opportunities and assigned an HR manager to help us search for positions at other locations and companies.

Decades later, that experience has stayed with me. Amid industry-wide tech layoffs, I reflected on it often — particularly how I've woven the lessons learned from that difficult situation into the company I've spent the last 25 years building. Caring — not just empathy and compassion, but actually prioritizing the needs and well-being of employees — is something that I've tried to instill in my executive team and will serve you well when navigating layoffs as an employer.

Related: Poor Leadership Is Going Viral on Social Media Amid Mass Layoffs

Hire for fit and long-term growth

My company initially operated out of a basement as a bootstrapped start-up; now, it is an established name in the ambulatory healthcare technology landscape. Fortunately, in our 25-year history, we've never had to conduct mass layoffs. One of the ways I managed this is by hiring with a conservative and strategic approach. Here's what I mean:

  • Financial Prudence: We operate with a financially conservative approach, ensuring we have a buffer to weather economic downturns and support our team's development even during slow periods. This financial responsibility minimizes the risk of layoffs and shows our team we're invested in their long-term success.
  • Don't Hire Too Quickly: We are committed to a strict policy not to expand the team unless we have the financial security to support those new hires. This approach ensures we avoid unnecessary employee turnover, which wastes valuable time and resources and deteriorates trust in our decision-making.
  • Prioritize team Fit: We believe in finding the right fit — individuals who possess the necessary skills and align with the values, passion, and drive we bring to our work. This reduces turnover and fosters a more stable, engaged workforce that knows they can trust their colleagues and leaders to deliver.
  • Focus on Long-Term Potential: We look beyond resumes and qualifications to assess an individual's potential for growth personally and within the company. Someone with aspirations and a desire to learn can make a far more significant impact than someone who just has the hard skills. These hires can evolve as our company does.

Related: 3 Benefits of a Better Thought-Out Hiring Process

Be an empathetic leader

When you care, your employees can feel and see it, and your culture will thrive because of it. Empathy is of paramount importance. The recent wave of layoffs across the technology landscape is a stark reminder of the human cost associated with financial decisions. The economic landscape will always be uncertain, but leaders who care about their employees will navigate hard decisions and challenging times by prioritizing emotional intelligence and empathy.

While downsizing is difficult for many businesses, a strategic approach focused on empathy can significantly lessen the blow. Remember that empathy isn't just about grasping another's pain — it's about translating that understanding into action. It's also about recognizing the human element in everything we do.

Losing the contract at Black & Decker was difficult, but it took just a little effort to help point my colleagues and me in the right direction, and that shining example has stuck with me for almost 30 years. As leaders, remember that our teams rely on us for direction and genuine support. Our team is our greatest asset, and empathy is the fuel that keeps them running at their best and can help soften the blow if a company has to navigate a downsize.

Related: 3 Prudent Hiring Practices to Acquire the Best Talent

Never forget the value of your team

My experience at Black & Decker left an indelible mark, shaping my approach to leadership and employee relationships today. While replicating their extraordinary efforts may not be universally feasible, the core message remains: empathy is a strategic advantage, not just a nicety. This lesson has become a cornerstone of my leadership philosophy, influencing every decision and interaction within the company. It taught me that leading with empathy creates an environment where employees feel valued and understood, fostering a priceless sense of belonging and commitment. Similarly, by being financially prudent, prioritizing long-term growth through strategic hiring practices and fostering a culture of trust, companies can minimize the need for layoffs altogether. This strategic blend of financial foresight, empathetic leadership and a commitment to the well-being of employees lays the groundwork for a resilient and thriving organization.

This approach enhances employee loyalty and attracts top talent, who increasingly value corporate ethics and company culture when choosing a new position. Your employees are the foundation of your success — let's strive to create a business landscape where hiring for success and acts of compassion become the norm.

Randy Boldyga

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO, President, and Founder of RXNT

Randy Boldyga founded RXNT in 1999, pioneering e-prescribing in the U.S. He worked with stakeholders to set industry standards, now integral to the electronic medication process. His experience includes IT leadership roles and consulting for government agencies.

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