Tips to Handle Layoffs & Terminations
No manager looks forward to terminating employees. However, a company's future success depends on properly handling employee dismissal regardless of the reasons. It's good practice to remember that the termination process affects departing employees differently. Maintaining the morale of the remaining employees is critical as departed employees share the details of their termination with peers and in the marketplace.
Here are some common tips summarized from various sources:
- Preparation for the event is necessary. This includes documentation.
- Open and transparent communication is key. The employee in question should have received warnings and should not be surprised. Be clear about the reasons for the termination.
- The termination message should be brief and to the point and should be delivered by the manager of the departing employee, not by HR.
- Consider having a witness from Legal or HR if the situation requires.
- Be respectful, show empathy, and listen to the concerns of departing employees.
- Inform their colleagues of the termination, but keep details confidential.
- As a manager, this is your responsibility. Don't assign blame or hide behind directives from above.
- Transitional support should be provided, if appropriate, including outplacement assistance for the departing employee and possibly a letter of recommendation.
For company-wide layoffs, here are some additional tips:
- Plan carefully for the time after the layoffs. Your remaining staff will need support in the changed work environment.
- Early, candid and frequent communication is critical. Employees should be clear about the background and reasons for the cutbacks. Future promises should be realistic.
- Upper management should be available to managers and provide guidance on delivering the bad news. Ideally, upper management should be available to employees in this situation, too.
- Managers represent the company. Any company-wide layoffs should be considered a "we" decision and not a "they" decision.
- Show empathy and listen to the concerns of the remaining employees to build loyalty and trust.
- Eric McNulty, a Harvard professor who teaches crisis leadership, says managers should never say, “we can do more with less.” If that is true you should have been doing it before.
Sources for this post include The Harvard Business Review (Susan Peppercorn); CNBC (Eric McNulty, Paul Wolfe, Jennifer Benz); Insperity; Blog Namely Rachel Bolsu); Reliable Plant (Debbie Zmorenski); Indeed; Keap (Business Management, Friedman, Rampton; Stewart); Business News Daily (Sean Peek); Academy to Innovate HR; Recruitee (Thomas Glare); Nationwide; Forbes (Mike Kappel).
Post submitted by Dennis Swijter, Research Manager International Flavors and Fragrances R&D (retired) and ALMA Board Member
Here's a link to an Opinion Essay, Layoffs By Email Show What Employers Really Think of Their Workers, published in The New York Times on January 31, 2023. It's a good companion article to the above management tip.