It is hard to look someone in the face and tell them that they don’t have a job any more.

I know.  I’ve had to do it more times than I’ve wanted.  You don’t ever get used to it, even in the rare times you are convinced that the person you are firing doesn’t deserve their job any longer.

When you tell someone they don’t have a job, you are taking away their livelihood.  They might not have the wherewithal to put food on their table or keep a roof over their head.

Whether or not it’s the right thing for the business, it’s a hard thing to do.

At lunch today, one of my acquaintances talked about having to lay off more than two dozen people when his company merged with another company recently.

“It was the worst day of my career,” he said.  “They are people.  I failed them.”

But he did the right thing.  He sat down, looked them in the eye and was candid about what was going on.

A business leader can never give people a reason to believe that he’s forgotten who they are.

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is taking the easy way out and not owning up to the harsh realities of business decisions.

That makes people lose faith in your vision — not just of the company, but of your vision of what it means to have humanity.

PR Daily today brings attention to what it calls a “classically bad” press release from Citigroup announcing a series of layoffs.  A total of 11,000 people are losing their jobs in what the release characterizes as:

Actions that will result in increased business efficiency, streamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.”

The CEO is quoted as calling these moves “the next logical step” for the company.

Think about that.  I sit down across from you, tell you that your job is being eliminated, that you don’t need to worry about coming in tomorrow, but that you can take solace from the fact that this job elimination is “the next logical step” in our business strategy.

That’s not making me feel good about the prospects of the company.

When you are thinking about how to communicate important events about your company, imagine that you are sitting down and explaining what’s happened to a teenager.  Be open.  Be frank.  Be realistic.  Don’t ever forget to be human.