CEO’s empathy averts 450 pink slips — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

CEO’s empathy averts 450 pink slips

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Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, had been walking around the hospital noticing things.

He noticed the transporters talking with patients and putting them at ease as they rolled toward the operating room. He noticed the cleaning people stripping sheets and polishing floors.

Now he stood in front of his staff, knowing there was not much chance he could hang onto all 8,000 of them. He’d already briefed them in an e-mail about the dire situation.

“I want to run an idea by you that I think is important,” Levy said, “and I’d like to get your reaction to it. I’d like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners—the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. These people work really hard, and I don’t want to put an additional burden on them.”

He continued. “Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice,” he said. “It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits.”

The auditorium erupted in applause. Levy’s eyes welled up and his throat got tight. Then he asked for ideas on saving money.

Within minutes, he started getting them, at a clip of 100 e-mails an hour. Levy and other hospital execs agreed to cut their own pay, took many of the other ideas and in the end reduced layoffs from 600 to 150.

You can show your people that the “E” in CEO stands for empathy.

— Adapted from “A head with a heart,” Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe.

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