You are the Senior Vice-President (SVP) of Human Resources for a financial software company that has 7,500 employees. In the past, the company has focused on selling a software product, AccountSoft, to large accounting firms. However, AccountSoft has suffered declining sales for the past two years, and management has decided to change the focus of the company to sell to small businesses and individuals. Because AccountSoft no longer fits with the new mission of the company, it will be sold to another financial software company—Accounting Support Services, Inc. (ASS).
The sale of AccountSoft to Accounting Support Services will affect two groups of employees in the AccountSoft division. Software developers will transfer to the acquiring firm, but the sales and marketing staff (about 150 people) will be leaving. This was the agreement with Accounting Support Services as part of the acquisition deal.
To announce the change in company mission, the sale of AccountSoft, and the upcoming layoffs, you advise the CEO to send an email to all employees. You are tasked with writing the email that will be sent. In addition, you will have individual conversations with employees who will be affected by the layoffs.
Write the memo to communicate the decision clearly and help employees understand and accept the change.
Though you are writing to all 7,500 employees, the sale of AccountSoft will not affect everyone the same. Two percent of all employees will be laid off and an unknown number will be transferred to Accounting Support Services. The remainder will remain with the company, but will need to understand how the change will affect their jobs.
Your purpose is to communicate the decision, the facts that led up to the decision, the employees who will be affected by the decision, and future company plans to all remaining employees. Be sure to include specific dates when the changes will occur.
Structure the “bad news” indirectly. Include at least four paragraphs. The first paragraph will be the context or buffer, the second will be the explanation, the third will contain the bad news, and the fourth will contain the goodwill close.
When conveying bad news, tone is important. Choose a style that is clear and informative, positive and respectful. Consider the reaction to your choice of words conveying the bad news. For example, imagine the difference between saying “unfortunately, valuable employees will be laid off” versus “excess employees will be dumped.”