4 Wrong Ways to Announce a Layoff

man with megaphoneIt’s the hardest part about being a boss – delivering the bad news nobody wants to hear.

With a global economic downturn comes cutbacks, and they are happening all over the country. Companies are slimming their budgets and making some difficult cuts. If this includes your company, you might find yourself having to deliver some rather difficult news. Nobody likes to hear about layoffs. They affect people’s livelihoods, and that’s something that’s close to home. It’s not something to treat callously or flippantly.

Never Deliver the News This Way:

1. Send a Mass Email

 Finding out that you’ve been laid off via mass email is one of the harshest ways to find out. You have to wonder, “did the company not care enough about me as a person to tell this to me personally?” As a manager, you must never go this route.

2. Tell Your Staff Via Conference Call

 This method is only slightly better than the mass email method. At least your team gets to hear the sound of their leader’s voice explaining why they’ve been laid off, but they really deserve a one-on-one explanation. Many people will be justifiably upset after hearing the news. Nobody wants to have to react to that news in front of all their colleagues—some of whom may still have a job.

3. No Reasons

If you have layoffs, your employees deserve know the reason why. Layoffs can be detrimental to people’s self-esteem, which can lead to an inability or delay in finding a new job.

Are the account numbers dipping? Is the company trying save money? Your staff worked with you and stuck with you through thick and thin, and as employees, they have a stake in the company too. They deserve to know the reasons why they are being let go.

Some businesses announce a layoff due to poor performance, only to reward their stockholders with more dividends at the same time. This is very confusing. If the board or your investors want to cut costs, just say so.

4. Sugar Coat the Reason with Lots of Flowery Words

About two years ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella laid off about 18,000 employees. The announcement was made through a written memo, complete with flowery words like “work simplification,” and “strategic alignment.” Maybe Nadella felt the need to justify the reason in a positive manner, but that didn’t help Microsoft’s employees handle the news.

Honesty is always the best policy, even when delivering bad news. Although that news may hurt at the time, your employees will respect you more in the end if you tell them directly the real reason they’re being let go.

So… How Should You Communicate a Layoff?

Discuss the layoff in person whenever possible. The distance of a satellite office from a head office may make this more difficult, but a good employer will try to fly in to an office to talk with an employee directly.

Set a meeting, and make it short, initially. Once the meeting begins, get to the point. Tell them you have some bad news to deliver, and launch into a short explanation of why the layoff is occurring. If it has nothing to do with staff performance, tell your employee so that he or she doesn’t think it’s because of something that they’ve done.

Let the staff member have some time to absorb the news. Tell him or her to take some time to think about it, and let them know your door is open when they inevitably have questions.

Have your human resources department have a package of information ready, so that you can give it to your employee. This information could include benefits information, severance pay, and information about the outplacement package you availed for them.

If the staff member did a good job for you, tell the employee that you’d be happy to recommend him or her to another employer, or to give a job reference.

Make it quick. Don’t linger for longer than necessary. The employee is feeling a range of emotions right now, including anger, fear, and sadness. Give them an out to leave your office if they need to.