Fear Factor – An interesting Article – The Economic Times

I am a senior manager who has been given a mandate to reduce my workforce. I have to choose the employees to be fired from my team this week. No matter what I tell them, they will feel hurt and curse me for wreaking havoc on their families and their careers. How do I deal with this guilt and make it less painful for all of us


In the Mahabharata, when the Pandava brothers inherit a forest, Khandava-prastha, and want to build on it a great city, named Indra-prastha, the city of Indra, Krishna says, “Then burn the forest. Set aflame every plant, every animal, every bird and every bee. Offer them to agni. “When the Pandavas express their horror at the suggestion, Krishna says, “Then do not dream of a city.”


Hunger (bhook) demands food (bhog).Consumption demands sacrifice (bali). Sacrifice has consequences (karma).This is the bitter pill of life that a leader has to swallow if he wants to build Indra-prastha.


If the company is not doing well, if the revenue is not up to the mark, if the profits are not as expected, the costs will be cut. It is terrible that the situation has now reached a point that people have to lose jobs. It will be painful. There will be no escape.


The pain is not so much the loss of a job, but the impact that has on self-image, self-worth and self-esteem of the person losing the job. For it makes the person feel he is less worthy and less competent than those whose jobs were not cut. He will feel he is lowest in the pecking order. The psychological impact is terrible. So as senior manager, it is important to ensure that while you break the contract, you do not destroy their relationship with you. You have to ensure the dignity of the men and women concerned are maintained, remind them that the job is cut not because they are inferior but because things are just not working out with the company. Avoid the inhuman pink-slip practices common in many multinational companies where a person is consciously humiliated by being escorted out by security personnel and asked to collect their belongings at the gate.


The Vedic scriptures say that every person has three bodies: the physical body (sthula sharira),the mental body (sukshma sharira) and the social body (karana sharira).The physical body is what we see, the mental body is what we imagine ourselves to be and the social body is our location in society and organisation. When a person is being fired, the social body is dying but like old clothes discarded, it will be replaced by a new body. You as senior manager have to ensure that the death of the social body does not kill the mental body.


Your guilt is rooted in your own fear. The idea that you too could well be at the receiving end of such a gesture terrifies you. The consumer fears being consumed. You see this task as a burden you have to bear as a senior manager of the company. You do not see it as a necessary act for the good of the company with an unfortunate consequence. You see yourself as a victim of an organisational demand and a villain in the eyes of your team. But these are mental images that we construct in fear. In fear,the rest of your team will work harder, terrified that they will be next. This is unavoidable. In crisis, fear grips organisations. As senior manager, you have to acknowledge this fear, clarify what is and what is not in your control or influence, and avoid sweeping emotions under the carpet.