As many Ford workers in the US prepare to take 'voluntary salaried separation offers' from the company - under an offer that ended on last Monday, 19 February, executive vice-president Mark Fields has sent a memo to supervisors and managers urging them to handle the process sensitively.

"We recognise the separations may result in a range of emotions by both employees that leave and those who remain as they say goodbye to fellow employees and transition to a new way of doing business. As a supervisor, it is especially important to be accessible and supportive of your team during the transition," Fields wrote in a memo obtained by the Detroit Free Press (DFP).

"While these actions are difficult, they are necessary steps to align our resources with the changed business environment and to create the foundation for future profitable growth," Fields said.

"We recognise it's hard to say goodbye to friends and colleagues - their contributions and years of service are greatly appreciated."

The Free Press reported earlier this week that Ford had so many white-collar workers sign up for voluntary buyouts that the automaker had begun to revoke offers.

Some employees who wanted to leave Ford told the paper their managers had told them they no longer could take a buyout, and if they stayed, they could be demoted, relocated or have to take a pay cut. Some reportedly said Ford was trying to get them to quit without taking an expensive package.

As workers grow anxious about how Ford's human resources department is executing the salaried separation program, Fields issued the memo on Thursday to give supervisors, managers and higher executives guidelines to about how to better handle the employee departures, the Free Press said.

"While overall voluntary acceptance rates were better than projected, every organisation must meet its own salaried cost task and, in some groups, involuntary separations may be required," Fields' memo said, adding that managers would tell employees as soon as possible whether or not their goal was met through voluntary separations and whether involuntary separations were necessary.

"If involuntary separations are required, they will follow the conclusion of the voluntary programmes and employees remaining in the organisation will be notified when the involuntary separations have concluded," Fields wrote.

"This change will introduce a period of transition - the process by which we must leave behind old ways of doing things and develop creative and effective ways to work with a third fewer people," the memo said.

"During this time, employees may experience significant emotional challenges and counselling is available through the company's Total Health program for those that need it.

"Employees who remain with the company can be encouraged by the opportunity they have to take part in one of America's most significant turnarounds."