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When planning layoff, use objective factors

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in Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

When deciding who should get the ax during cost-cutting reductions in force, use as many objective factors as possible. For example, use performance measures that include specific achieve­­­ments and rankings based on those achievements.

Recent case: Tamara Anthony worked for Duff & Phelps as a real estate analyst. She is a Russian émigré. The only other real estate analyst in her office was an American man.

The company used a performance evaluation system that included points for productivity and efficiency, resulting in a numerical score. Over the years both analysts were evaluated, Anthony consistently scored 10% to 15% lower than her co-worker.

When the economy tanked in 2008, the company decided to cut personnel at offices across the country. The national real estate manager looked at performance evaluations for each ­office and determined that the lowest-ranked individual should be cut. But before he made a final decision, he checked with supervisors to see whether a performance score “grossly mischaracterized the overall quality” of any employee’s ­actual and recent performance.

In Anthony’s case, her boss concluded the score was accu­rate, so she was fired. Anthony sued, alleging she had been picked because she was Russian.

But the court disagreed after analyzing the process. It saw no indication that anyone was biased against Anthony. Instead, all the evidence indicated a careful focus on objective performance mea­­sures. It tossed out the case. (Anthony v. Duff & Phelps, No. 10-3743, 3rd Cir., 2011)

Final note: This company did everything right. It objectively mea­­sured employee performance and did so regularly. It ranked employees based on performance and made downsizing decisions on a national level, far removed from any possible supervisor bias. As a back-up, the process also considered current performance.

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