Learn how to effectively handle a situation where you have to tell people that they are being laid off.

Reasons for layoffs

Redundancies are a special case when it comes to letting people go, in which neither you nor your employee are the deciders. The unique challenge with this situation is that:

  • They haven’t done anything wrong. There haven’t been any performance issues, so this is purely a business decision. Typically, it is for bad reasons, like the company isn’t hitting targets and has come into financial difficulty. So, even though everyone has somehow contributed to this situation in some way, it’s a decision from above that is out of your control and likely isn’t their fault.
  • It’s going to be a surprise to them. Because the rumor mill can be harmful, typically, a round of redundancies will be carried out at an orchestrated time. They won’t see it coming. This increases the potential of conflict when you deliver the news. If you are given information of upcoming redundancies in confidence so you can prepare, absolutely do not leak it. It never improves the situation.
  • You don’t want them to go either. When delivering the message, it’s likely that you will also feel upset that they will be losing their job and leaving the company. You’ll need to balance your emotions so that you can be clear, direct, and supportive.

How to handle layoffs?

Suppose you find yourself in a situation where you have to let people go through redundancy. In this case, you will typically be given a script to follow by the company that details their reasoning plus their severance package. If you haven’t been given this, you have the right to ask for one. You shouldn’t be left to make it up as a manager.

When it’s time to give the message, keep calm and stick to your script and notes. Try not to react to any anger or frustration that you receive. Instead, listen and understand, but explain that you don’t have the power to change the situation. This is one of the hardest things to do as a manager. You’ll get through it, but it will hurt. Remember, they’ll be hurting more.

Letting people go

Letting someone go is never easy, and you should call upon the support of your manager and HR team to provide you with the appropriate administrative, collegiate, and legal support that you require.

Even if you’re nervous, and even if your manager offers to do it for you, you should be the one that does the firing. You owe it to your staff to be with them through the bad times and the good, and this is the very definition of a bad time.

Here are some tips for one of the most difficult meetings that you will do:

  • If it helps, prepare what you want to say by writing it down first and bringing the script to the meeting.
  • Speak calmly and slowly and allow plenty of silence for them to respond.
  • Be prepared for them to be angry and emotional. Stay centered and listen attentively but remember that the decision has already been made.
  • Once it’s over, take some time for yourself. Go and take a long walk or get a coffee down the road. Get some space between the firing and the next activity that you do.

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