Communicating a Layoff: 3 Steps for Making the Conversation More Compassionate
By: Shawna Simcik
Layoffs unfortunately are all too common in today’s turbulent economic time. In many cases, the announcements are being made so quickly that managers and employees are not prepared, and many organizations and managers are doing layoffs for the first time in their history or career.
What do you say when you are laying off one of your team members? How do you keep morale alive with the remaining employees and minimize their fears about job security? Equally important and more pragmatically, how do you protect your company from legal exposure during the layoff process? Here are three recommended steps for making this tough conversation more compassionate.
- Communicate Openly, Honestly and Follow a Script. It may seem ingenuine to “script” a layoff message, and this doesn’t mean you should sound like an insensitive robot when delivering the news. However, it is important to consider what you will say prior to the notification meeting and keep the message short. If you say too much or the wrong thing, this could land your company in legal hot water. Let us look at a sample message you might send.
“Mary, in an effort to reduce costs, we are restructuring our business, and that will result in the elimination of a number of positions in our company. Unfortunately, your position has been selected, and I’m afraid we’re going to have to lay you off. Today will be your last day of work with us, and we have information to share with you regarding your severance package. I want to thank you for all your hard work and dedication for the past four years. You have made it a better place around here, and I’m personally going to miss working with you. Thank you for all you have done for us.”
- Avoid Small Talk and Making Promises. This isn’t a time for small talk. When you begin the meeting, get straight to the point and deliver the message with compassion. In most cases you can offer support by saying or assuring them that you will give a great reference or offer to make introductions; that is, if your relationship warrants it. Most importantly, don’t make promises you cannot keep. “When the market turns around, we will bring you back.” You don’t know that for sure and that is all the employee will hear in the moment, ‘they are bringing me back.’ Finally, don’t let your insecurities get in the way and say, “this is difficult for me.” It is irrelevant. It is much more difficult for the person losing their job.
- Consider Logistics. Prior to Covid-19 restrictions, the physical environment including a private, quiet room would have been key to a compassionate message. However, physical restrictions may make this impossible today. The goal would be to maximize the comfort in delivery of the message and grant dignity to the person who is being laid off. With this understanding, a video conference is the best method today and be sure that you are 100 percent clear of distractions when delivering the message. Further, safety is still an upmost consideration. Be sure the individual being laid off is in a safe place and has immediate access to resources and support. Be prepared to provide the number to the Employee Assistance Program and Outplacement Coach who can provide immediate support to help the employee navigate these difficult times.
All organizations need an effective, efficient and standard process for handling layoffs and managers should be trained in how to do it. Training makes it a less frightening task – it does not make it easy but can make it easier. Most organizations don’t necessarily see the need to offer training because it may be a relatively infrequent occurrence, but layoffs done poorly can create more substantial consequences including wrongful termination lawsuits and blows to your company’s reputation.
If you are planning or preparing for layoffs, give ICC a call. We have many resources to support your company and managers to show kindness, compassion and make the transition as smooth as possible. www.InnovateICC.com or 855-865-4400.