How Should Managers Deliver Bad News of Layoffs to the Workforce?

February 13, 20172:01 pm3380 views

Among other HR functions, notifying layoffs to the workforce is often considered as the most difficult mission to accomplish. While every leader wants their businesses to live long and prosper in the industry, worst situations could arise during economic uncertainties that can force you to conduct layoffs and deliver bad news. When faced with a crisis situation at work, how do you deliver bad news of layoffs to the workforce?

While downsizing at times is required for organisations to streamline their business, leaders often need to conduct layoffs in order to reduce operating costs. There are many reasons why informing your employees about oncoming dismissals is a tough task to do.

Firstly, the employees you have to layoff as a part of the major overhaul could be productive, loyal, and hardworking. The fact that there is nothing wrong with their performance makes it even more difficult to discharge them.

Second, you never know how they would react upon hearing the news, nor how you should respond to their reaction. Third, while it is a part of your job to deliver both good and bad news, being the bearer of bad news will make employees look at you, as the bad guy behind their termination. Nonetheless, HR leaders cannot stay off this situation at work and avoid it completely either.

So here are several tips for you to effectively deliver bad news such as termination, layoffs, and restructuring to employees in a manner that is most suited to not impact employee morale and confidence:

See: Increased Hiring Demand for Senior Professionals in India in 2017

Hold a face-to-face communication

If you think notifying employees about the upcoming layoffs through emails is a good idea to avoid the drama it might stir, then you are not necessarily right. Sending emails wrapped with bad news is never a good way to express your feelings of disappointment and sudden change in company plans.

Not only is this method cold and unethical, there will be numerous unanswered questions on employees’ minds about the layoff. Even if you cannot hold a face-to-face communication, since your team is geographically dispersed and workers are working at a different place, grab the phone and call them directly.

Conduct private meetings

Keeping the bad news a secret until everyone gets eventually affected by the layoffs is not the path to tread for HR managers, as it affects company goodwill and brand. Make sure to conduct meeting privately with candidates who face termination, in a quiet room such that no one will interrupt the talk.

Do make it short, brief, and direct. You have to explain the company’s current situation and emphasise on why their division or position is decided to be eliminated from the organisation, such that they will not be discouraged. You also need to explain how company can help them with the financial transition.

Do it early

If you plan to deliver bad news at the end of the day, you should rethink about this. Do not convey sad news such as layoffs, when employees are tired towards the end of the day, as it will only worsen the atmosphere. It will be better if you tell them right away in the morning, such that they can move on quickly.

Show empathy and compassion

Compassion is the keyword to handle an unpleasant and guilty feeling. Getting fired would inevitably involve employee’s feelings and emotions, since it will dramatically change someone’s life direction. On being informed about termination, employees will need time to rethink strategies and plan on how to started again and what should they do to forward the news to their beloved ones.

In order to help them cope with this situation, HR leaders should show empathy and compassion during delivery. Provide positive words of praise and appreciation to encourage and support them through the phase.

Treat them with respect

Do not let the affected employees walk out of the door by their own. It is crucial to treat them with respect and demonstrate that you are grateful for everything they have done for the company.

Allow them to bid a pleasant goodbye to their co-workers, collect their belongings, and escort them to the way out. This attitude will not only make them feel appreciated, but also prevent possible lawsuits that might occur later or speaking ill about the company brand on social media channels.

Provide good reference

When someone is getting laid off, they will need to chart out a new course for their career. To help them with better preparation, provide good references. This will make them believe that they are not fired owing to poor performance, but rather due to company’s downsizing operations.

Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, and HR leaders are no exception. However, when layoffs are inevitable, there is no other way but to inform the affected employees clearly and directly. If you conduct this process in the right manner and approach, you would leave little scope for unwanted emotions, fears and tears.

Read also: Retrenchments hit a 7-year High in Singapore Since 2009

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