Downsizing

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SETA survey of representatives in Tribunal cases 2008
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Research Paper
Downsizing envoys:
A public/private sector comparison
Ref: 11/12

2012
Dr Ian Ashman
Institute for Research into Organisation, Work and Employment University of Central Lancashire

For any further information on this study, or other aspects of the Acas Research and Evaluation programme, please telephone 020 7210 3673 or email research@acas.org.uk
Acas research publications can be found at
www.acas.org.uk/researchpapers

ISBN 978-1-908370-22-8

Downsizing envoys:
A public/private sector comparison

Dr Ian Ashman
Institute for Research into Organisation, Work and Employment University of Central Lancashire

CONTENTS

FOREWORD

3

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

4

1.

INTRODUCTION

5

2.

METHODOLOGY

7

3.

FINDINGS

9

3.1
3.2.1

The similarities
Emotional demands

9
9

3.2.2

Relational ties

10

3.2.3
3.2.4

Role overload and coping
Trade union involvement

10
12

3.2

The differences

13

3.2.1
3.2.2

Politics
Internal politics

13
14

3.2.3

Downsizing rationale

15

3.2.4
3.2.5

Downsizing approach
Support

17
18

3.2.6

Preparation (the selection and training of envoys)

20

4.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

24

REFERENCES

26

FIGURES AND TABLES
Table 1 Summary of participating organisations by sector and respondents by role

 

2

7

FOREWORD

This report explores the experience of ‘downsizing envoys’ – the individuals at work charged with the responsibility of breaking the news to employees about their potential job loss. It focuses on experiences in the private sector and contains comparative evidence drawn from an earlier study which focussed on the same issue, but conducted in a sample of public sector workplaces (Ashman, 2012).

Redundancy handling carries a considerable burden of responsibility for managers and unions, and the envoys play a unique and especially challenging part in this process. This is why Acas believed that exploring their experiences and identifying lessons in good practice is important in its overall understanding of the requirements of downsizing, and redundancy exercises.

The research uncovers that envoys experience is emotionally demanding. Many adopt strategies to distance themselves in order to cope, but in this research, all sought to conduct their role to meet a high standard, often at personal costs. Acas is grateful to Dr Ian Ashman for instigating this particular strand of research on redundancy handling. We will be revisiting our guidance in order to more fully explore the implications for employers of supporting individuals in an envoy role. Ed Sweeney

Chair of Acas

 

3

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Aim
This study builds on a previous research paper published by Acas (Ashman 2012) that explores the experiences of public sector employees that have been given the task of delivering the generally bad news of downsizing decisions face to face with the victims and then deal with the immediate repercussions – labelled downsizing envoys. The evidence from that paper is combined here with data gathered from envoys in the private sector in order to identify the similarities and differences in the experiences of envoys between the two sectors. The aim of this paper is to develop further our understanding of the envoy situation and to identify what instances of good practice can be garnered from either sector.

Methodology
In combination with evidence from the public sector study a total of 50 envoys were interviewed; where 24 came from across 9 public sector organisations, a further 24 from across 8 private sector organisations and two independent consultants. The interviewees are all presently or recently based in the North West of England. Including the 2 consultants 30 envoys are HR professionals and the other 20 are envoys drawn from other organisational functions. Findings

A broad summary of...
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