There’s a bit of a debate going on on the blogosphere about whether layoffs are the “moment of truth” for human resources pros. Spurred by an incident where a publishing company employee received news of his layoff from a complete stranger and then was informed that he’d be called at home “to make sure everything was all right,” Jack Welch, formerly of GE, now of The Welch Way, a consultancy, responded that HR “must show departing employees the same kind of attentiveness and dignity that was showered upon them when they entered.”

Sharlyn Lauby
, or “The HR Bartender,” blogged back:

God forbid. When a company is faced with a layoff decision, how employees are treated shouldn’t come as a surprise. Employees should know that they’ve been treated with dignity and respect their entire time at a company and, if faced with a layoff or termination, the circumstances should be no different.

That’s not when HR should demonstrate whether or not a company really cares about its people. HR (and the rest of the company for that matter) should be demonstrating their caring respect each and every day.

If HR wants to really be a business partner, they have to remove the moniker of “layoff and pain” department. If you think about it, aren’t handling layoffs, being an arbiter, and absorbing pain all reactionary activities? Shouldn’t the role of HR be proactive and more than a little strategic?

What do you think? Who’s right here? Are both correct? Both do agree that employees shouldn’t be given the news by a “hired gun” from outside. It’s HR’s job to make sure the manager delivers the bad news face to face. But what is the moment of truth?