How to Approach Layoffs at Your Organization

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The coronavirus has triggered unprecedented layoffs around the globe.

On the week of April 4th, 2020, unemployment claims in the US reached 6.6 million. And as the economic ramifications of the global shutdown echo for the rest of the year, organizations will continue to pare down their employees to fit their budgetary needs.

You might have questions like, “should I put my employees on furlough?” or “is it better to have employees go on unemployment or take a pay cut?” (if you’re considering this, my friend Katie Bischoff has some great insight). Whatever the answer is, many of you will need to fire some or all of your workforce. Here’s how to do it with compassion.

Laying off your employees is never easy. But in a time of economic distress, layoffs can come in many different forms. Some companies will make sweeping, bold decisions from the beginning; others will slowly let people go a small percentage at a time. No matter how your organization decides to cope with the damaged economy, there is a right and wrong way to lay people off. 

I shared my thoughts on how to fire employees back in 2013, but I think now is an especially good time to revisit the topic of layoffs. 

Have Empathy for Your Employees

For those with over 20 years of experience, loss of a job can affect the same receptors in a person’s brain as the loss of a family member. Being laid off can be one of the most painful and traumatic experiences a person can go through. Many times people don’t just lose a job, they lose a sense of purpose, self-esteem, confidence, and even their identity.

5 Stages of Grief

Employees who lose their job will often experience the 5 stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are very normal emotions for employees to experience when they’re let go from a company. They may feel upset one minute and annoyed the next. It’s possible they’ll even want to vent their anger in your direction. In order to avoid this you’ll want to be as compassionate and empathetic as possible. Emphasize that you recognize the situation is not ideal. You can even go a step further and offer to help them moving forward, whether that’s with a severance package, a reference, or some other means.

It is quite possible that some employees will take the layoff personally. Again, you’ll want to emphasize as much as possible that this is a result of economic conditions beyond your control. Make sure that those who were good workers know that the work they put in over the years was very much appreciated and that their contributions will be missed.

Plan Your Layoffs Early in The Week

All your employees are people just like you and me. They have lives and bills and needs. While it might seem convenient for you to wait until Friday afternoon to share the bad news, you should do it as early in the week as possible. When you let someone go on a Friday, they are unable to take action over the weekend and left to stew over their new situation. Notifying them earlier in the week gives them time to access resources like unemployment, job search networks, or legal assistance.

Be Clear About What is Happening and Why

Even when employees have a hunch there might be layoffs, it’s difficult to hear that they’re losing their job. Be clear about the dismissal, and the expectations for the rest of the day as they make their exit. Keep it brief, but offer to answer any questions they might have. Finally, whatever you say to the employee, put in writing for their future reference. Because no matter what you say, your employee will only hear three words — “you are fired.”

Consult with Leadership About What to Say

Firing is not the time to ad-lib on your own. Consult with HR or even your company’s legal counsel before preparing to let someone go. Many states have disclosure requirements about what is appropriate to disclose to an employee about why they are being laid off. Going off-script could lead to lawsuits, miscommunication, and confusion. Read more here…

Via: Laurie Ruettimann