Loathing Layoffs

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

Even though the economy is starting to pick up and the job market seems to be regaining strength, I have had the idea of layoffs in the back of my head. If I had to let some of my people go, I am not sure I would know how to do it professionally and legally. Any suggestions to settle my racing mind?

Breaking the bad news to someone you respect and have built a professional relationship with can be extremely tough. It makes it even harder when this person is laid off by no fault of their own. With the shaky economy, we have seen record numbers of people losing their jobs. It appears that the economy may be slowly but surely getting back on its feet. But if you are faced with delivering the axe, it is always best to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the situation.

First thing to do if you are notified by upper management that a downsizing scenario may be taking place, ask if you have the permission to make a general announcement to your staff to prepare them if the time should come. Your staff will be shocked and confused but in the long run better for it. Give them a date to when the staffing cuts will begin. It will encourage them to prepare for the worst. DISAGREE – it will cause a mass exodus and may not even happen. Only agree if the entire team is getting let go.

If you are asked to layoff an employee be ready with justification for your and the companies decision. An answer like “just because” or “it’s not you, it’s us” isn’t going to cut it or sit well with the employee across the table. Be understanding but professional. Legally, in some states, you do not have to say and would be advised not to say. That said, the manager should understand that the employee will take whatever is said personally and the manager should use kid gloves – as you said below.

Now that the employee has been thrown into a tailspin, offer some options for them to take control of their situation. Most companies offer severance packages to recently laid-off employees. You can give them the option of extended health benefits instead of monetary compensation. This gives the sense that they still have choices. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to have HR in the room so they can walk the employee through their options.

Finally, even though you are trying to be professional and emotionally distance yourself, you are human. Show sympathy and offer a few kind words can’t hurt.

Have any reader’s been forced into layoff situation on either side? Tell me your stories — the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!

Looking forward to your comments,


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. m.capriola
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 07:49:02

    I got laid off from a company after 10 years of service due to massive downsizing after years of mismanagement. We were kept in the loop as information became available and offered job search assistance. We were still angry because, if not for the incompetance and corruption at the top, the downsizing would never have happened.


  2. misslovely217
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 03:15:12

    RR Please write in English. this country speaks English only.


  3. misslovely217l
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 03:14:12

    RR.RR Please speak English if you don’t want to I suggest you can go back to your own country.


    • m.capriola
      Jun 11, 2012 @ 07:54:21

      That was uncalled for. You could have found a more tactful way of informing RR.RR that this is an English-only website.

      FDR was invited to speak to the Daughters of the American Revolution. He opened his speech by addressing the assembly as “My fellow immigrants.”

      Remember — Everyone in America, other than the Pre-Columbian aborigines, came from somewhere else.


  4. RR.RR
    May 31, 2012 @ 10:21:59



  5. pravinchn
    May 29, 2012 @ 08:10:58

    Reblogged this on pravinchn.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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