6 Tips for Handling Employee Layoffs Sensitively

While sharing difficult news with an employee never gets easy, there are a few guidelines that can help make the process run smoother

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While managing employees can be an incredibly rewarding experience, it’s not without its fair share of struggles. Some of the most challenging aspects of team leadership are those involving layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts. Unfortunately, whether due to internal problems or external economic factors, the need to downsize is pretty common.

How can business owners handle employee layoffs in the wisest and most efficient way possible? While sharing difficult news with an employee never gets easy, here are a few guidelines and tips that can make the process run a bit smoother. 

1) Lead with empathy.

Delivering news about a layoff may make you feel uncomfortable; that’s totally normal. Remember, though, that while the news may make you feel a bit awkward, it’s likely life-altering, perhaps even panic-inducing, for the employee receiving it. Put yourself in the employee’s shoes as you communicate and ground yourself in a real sense of empathy.

2) Emphasize that the decision is nothing personal.

Layoffs are based purely on the business’ financial standing, not on employee performance. Make sure your employees know this. Reiterate that the layoff is nothing personal and not performance-related, but instead is just a grim business reality.

3) Plan in advance.

When you’re announcing a layoff, the last thing you want is to come across as scatterbrained or unready. To avoid this, make sure you take some time to get organized in advance. Be thoughtful about the timing of your announcement and strategic about who knows about the layoff in advance. Also make sure you carefully document all of the information you need to share while making the announcement, creating a way to communicate clearly and effectively with your employee.

4) Be direct.

The kindest thing you can do for your employees is to be clear with them. Don’t beat around the bush or leave them with uncertainty about their employment status. While you need to be empathetic, you also need to get to the point.

5) Provide resources.

Remember that as soon as you announce the layoff you’ll have employees who are deeply worried about their own future, and the future of their families. Make a good faith effort to help them find work again as soon as possible. Consider reaching out to a local recruiting firm to provide some contacts and connections for your laid-off employees. Show a willingness to assist them in getting back on their feet ASAP. (Doing this will likely cost you nothing.)

6) Provide a physical takeaway.

Be prepared to give your employees a physical document they can take with them, detailing everything they need to know about their last paycheck, severance, benefits, COBRA and more. Getting laid off is disorienting, and employees won’t remember everything you tell them. Giving them something in writing matters deeply.

Laying off an employee is never fun. With that said, taking a careful, intentional approach can ensure the best possible outcome, both for the employee and for your business.

About the Author

Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at www.grammarchic.net.


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