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Health Prog. 1994 Jul-Aug;75(6):24-6.

Ethical downsizing. Managers must focus on justice and human dignity.

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Ethics Institute, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit.


It is vital that leaders and managers focus on justice and human dignity in the workplace when faced with the possible need to downsize. First, administrators should clearly identify the goals of work force reduction, evaluate their importance, and consider whether they could be achieved through other means. Once they have made the decision to downsize, top managers must clearly communicate the reasons and the goals to those responsible for identifying the employees affected. Employees selected for layoff should be identified on the basis of the articulated goals for work force reduction, whenever possible. When this is not clear, the tough decisions can be based on a variety of factors: "across-the-board" reductions; employee abilities, qualifications, and performance; diversity goals; seniority; or multiple criteria. It is also important to respect human dignity in the layoff process. Affected employees should be informed in advance and given an honest explanation for the layoff. Ordinarily, they should be encouraged to work until the effective date. All employees need a clear and honest explanation of the reasons for and the expected effects of the layoff. There should be a stress on the free flow of information, without an effort to control it. How downsizing is handled says a lot about the nature of an organization and its leadership. Ethical downsizing is, first of all, a refusal to deny the complexity of the issues and evidence of the organization's commitment to justice and human dignity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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