Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Creating Exceptional Workplaces and Extraordinary Results
Roberta Matuson's Blog

Breaking the News to Laid Off Workers

Here we go again. Another company planning to lay off workers in a group meeting because it’s easier for the employer to do it this way. How about what’s in the best interest of those who will be laid off and the survivors who will be huddling near the water cooler waiting until it’s their turn to be called into a group meeting? The lesson to be learned from this inhumane approach is clear: Don’t do it. Your employees deserve better. Here are a few tips to help you handle what is bound to be a tough day for all:

  • Involve the managers. Layoffs are a major event and should be handled by the person who has the relationship with the employee.
  • Give advance notice when necessary. A federal law, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), requires larger employers to give workers 60 days’ notice before a plant closing or mass layoff.
  • Don’t hold a termination party in the conference room. Take the time to inform workers individually that they will be laid off. Make it a confidential meeting, provide enough time to answer the worker’s questions, and give departing employees the information needed to take care of matters that will be top of mind.
  • Explain the decision. Tell the worker why layoffs were necessary and why he or she was chosen to be laid off. Refrain from discussing others who are also on the list.
  • Express your gratitude. Thank the worker for their contribution and be empathetic when delivering the news.
  • Discuss next steps. If the company will offer severance, explain the package. Tell the worker when his or her last day will be and what will happen in the meantime.
  • Gather the survivors. When the layoffs are complete, bring together those who are still employed and inform them of what has just occurred. Refrain from making promises regarding the future state of employment, as for most organizations this will remain an unknown for some time to come.

I share more timeless tips for tactful terminations in my book, Suddenly in Charge.

What would you add to this list?


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  1. Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The last company I worked for did layoffs–several, in fact, over a couple of years–in just the manner you describe. The attention to empathy and dignity was truly excellent, and it showed me that it IS possible to do this right, that people who say otherwise are simply misguided. On the day of the first big layoff, in a company meeting the president explained the situation and told people that 50 of them were going to lose their jobs that day. He expressed his sadness. People were understandably on edge, but as managers we called those on our teams we were laying off into a conference room individually. We had been told to cry if we wanted to cry, to be brief but to the point (we’d been given a script if we felt we couldn’t find the words), and to explain the next steps. The person was then sent to a large conference room where HR reps gave them their specific termination packages, and they were then afforded the opportunity to meet immediately with a company-paid career service. It was marvelous. No one blew up. Some were quite emotional, of course, but we were allowed to say goodbye to people, walk them out, and feel the pain. Of all the things this company did wrong, this situation was done 100% right. I’ll never forget it.

  2. Posted January 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    CORPORATE GREED is what mainly holds businesses from being more generous to its’ employees. And with the recession, it only bolstered the claim that “They should be happy to have a Job”. Workers have been forced to keep quiet in order to keep their job when they know companies should place more value on the happiness of their employees and the domino effect it will have on the wealth of the company.
    When employees are valued as much as their consumers, then they become ambassadors for the company and EVERYBODY WINS!

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