“Your position is being eliminated.”
It’s not an easy task. If you are an effective manager, you have mentored and led your team. You appreciate their contributions and you like them as people. And they like you. And now, you have some bad news to break. And you just want to be done with it.
We believe in a humane approach. Subject to discussion with your organization’s Human Resources and Legal staff, we offer the following tips for handling a layoff:
- If you must lay off one of your employees, have that conversation yourself. Better in person, but times may require that you do this via Zoom appointment.
- Have an HR partner with you, but no need for other “observers.”
- Ideally you will speak for a few minutes and then turn the conversation over to your HR partner. You will depart and then the HR professional will talk 1:1 with the affected employee about their departure, benefits, etc., perhaps emailing some documents to the employee in real time to review.
- Assuming you are doing a layoff now because of financial distress related to the pandemic, let the employee know that.
- Express your own regret that this is necessary for the organization to reduce spending and move forward.
- Thank the individual for his/her contributions – name a few specifics.
- Offer to be a reference as the individual moves forward in his/her job search.
- Offer that when it’s appropriate to safely return to the workplace, the employee can clean out their desk and retrieve any personal belongings.
- Do not cut off the employee’s organizational email before you can talk with them and deliver the news.
- Wish them well as they move forward.
Once the personal notification(s) have been made to affected employees, send a communication to co-workers in the department to notify them that the layoff(s) have occurred, effective immediately. Include the following key messages if appropriate:
- The decision was difficult but necessary due to the pandemic’s effect on the organizations finances.
- Acknowledge the individual’s contributions and express gratitude.
- Acknowledge that this is difficult news for the team to hear.
- Emphasize that their contributions going forward remain important to the success of the business.
- Discuss how the affected individual’s duties will be reassigned – if that has been determined.
- If a reorganization has already been determined, discuss that and share the new organization chart.
- If a reorganization is under discussion, share that information and give them an idea of when decisions will be made.
Note that the “surviving” employees will have several concerns, beginning with these two:
- Will there be any more layoffs? (Am I secure going forward?)
- Will they be expected to take on the affected employee’s duties in addition to what they already do? (Am I going to have more work to do?)
How a manager/organization handles a layoff is important for two reasons.
First, the affected employee deserves to be treated humanely in a devastating situation.
Second, others are watching. You and your organization are counting on the remaining employees to keep moving forward. They will hear how their co-workers were treated in a layoff and they will judge the organization – and management – accordingly.
Finally, prepare communications for other key stakeholders, such as others in the organization beyond your department, board members, donors, etc. If your organization is a large corporation or a local non-profit, have a news release ready to send to news media to let them know what is happening – before they hear it from an affected employee. Send the news release and other communications the same day on which the layoffs occur.
The Activ Consulting Group knows how to handle these sensitive communications. We’re here to assist you when you need us.