At work, he was nicknamed The Undertaker. To many employees at the national men's ministry where Gary Hansen served as Chief of Staff and Human Resources Director, the title fit perfectly. He became the bearer of bad news, informing employees that due to ongoing financial problems in the organization, they would lose their jobs.
No one foresaw layoffs when the ministry started in the early 90s. As its influence grew, so did its need for additional staff. At one point, Gary oversaw 600 employees there. But financial contributions dwindled in the late 90s. Over time, Gary orchestrated 10 different layoffs, reducing staff by 400 to 450 people.
"I felt horrible," he recalls. "I personally laid off about 300 people, including many of my good friends. There were a number of meetings in which I actually sat there and cried with them."
To vent his frustrations and cope with his unpopularity, Gary often visited with Dr. Gordon England, the ministry's Director of Evangelism and an ordained minister. Dr. England introduced him to the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle so he could understand employees' reactions in the layoff meetings. Denial, shock, and anger, Gary learned, are typical emotions of those who lose their jobs.
In September 2008, Gary experienced those emotions firsthand. With a change in leadership and new direction in the ministry, The Undertaker faced his own "burial": Gary was asked to resign, along with the executive staff. Fourteen years of faithful service ended—just like that.1