How To Respectfully Lay Off Employees – The Complete Guide

HR, Outplacement

This blog post is the first in our blog series dedicated to the best practices in performing a reduction in staff.  Download the Complete Guide: How to Conduct a Layoff Notification Meeting >>

Joyce Domijan

Joyce Domijan, VP of Strategy and Program Development for CareerArc has over twenty years of broad and successful human resource, training, and career development experience.  She is an experienced career coach, resume writer and leadership development trainer who has created and conducted programs for thousands of professionals.

Please refer to these tips as guidelines and best practices, and be sure to consult with existing protocols and legal counsel.

 How to Lay Off Employees

Turnover happens at every season and at every company. Sometimes reductions in force (RIFs) affect a large number of employees at once, and other times they affect one. Regardless of the company or industry, the way we treat employees as they exit has never been more important than it is today.

When we surveyed 1,300 job seekers, we learned 38% of those who were terminated or laid off have shared a negative review about the company who let them go either online or with a professional or personal contact. (Source: CareerArc Employer Branding Study) Employer review sites and social media have fast become the go-to resources for hopeful job candidates looking for real, peer reviews of how employers treat their employees.

When a layoff or termination is done well, the affected employee will feel that they have been treated with dignity. Equally important, they will leave with a more positive impression of their employer, and more focused on the real task at hand–gaining new employment.

This guide has been created to assist you with the information and resources to prepare for and conduct employee separation notifications, and how to lay off employees process with dignity and respect for the employees affected.

How To Prepare for Layoff Notification Meetings

What is a Notification Meeting?

A notification meeting, or RIF notification, is the meeting where the employer gives formal notice to an employee that his or her employment has ended.

If you want the interaction between the employee and the manager to go as smoothly as possible, careful preparations and planning are most important.

The company’s objectives for the notification meeting are:

  1. To conduct concise, yet compassionate, separation meetings in a respectful manner, that inform employees that their jobs are being eliminated and they are being separated;
  2. To protect the corporate and employer brand, to the general public, and for future recruitment; and
  3. To minimize negative impact on employees leaving and staying.

The notification meeting objectives for the employee are:

  1. To hear and understand the message as it is intended;
  2. To retain dignity throughout the process; and
  3. To know the resources available to them to assist in their transition and know what to do next.

Pre-Notification Meeting Checklist

  • Be familiar with the circumstances that lead to the decision to eliminate the employee’s position.
  • Prepare a script as a guide. This will be a difficult meeting and it’s easy to forget things. A script will ensure that you convey all the necessary information. Practice the message you will deliver and how you will deliver it. Try to be genuine in your communications.
  • Prepare messages and scripts for both affected and unaffected employees. Know what you will say about the action being taken, the reason, and when and how it will happen. This will allow you to deliver the message in the most consistent, professional, and humane manner.  

Provide Resources

Be prepared to provide resources for the employee to help them in the transition. Refer to the following as resources that are available for them:

  • Human Resource and benefits transition information
  • Career Center resources, if applicable
  • Outplacement resources–like CareerArc Outplacement–to assist in employees’ transition, job search, and resume preparation
  • Other company or external community resources.

Prepare to Address Tough Questions and Emotional Reactions

The separation process can be emotional for all parties; prepare for this.

  • Try to anticipate questions ahead of time and have the answers to those questions. Remember to have a box of tissues available.
  • Take the time necessary to make the proper arrangements for the notification meeting.
  • Select a place where you can have privacy.
  • Select a time early in the day and on a day that is not immediately prior to a weekend, holiday, or scheduled vacation for either the employee or manager.
  • Consider the day in relation to significant dates for the employee (e.g. family celebration, religious holiday, employee’s birthday, etc.)
  • Plan for uninterrupted time.

Prepare Others Involved in the Notification Process

  • Allow enough time to complete the meeting without being rushed, including giving the employee time to ask questions. Consider having an appropriate person (i.e. a receptionist or department administrative assistant) who is not privy to the subject of the meeting notify the employee of the meeting. This allows you to introduce the purpose of the meeting in a private, controlled manner.
  • Depending on your knowledge of the employee it may be advisable to have a counselor or a Human Resources representative on-call if needed. Discuss with them any possible problems you feel could occur or any concerns you may have.  In addition, depending on circumstances, you may also wish to consider extra security if you feel there is a possibility of a violent reaction.
  • Arrange for another manager to be with you during the meeting.
  • Assess the impact of the employee’s departure on co-workers and clients.
  • Seek appropriate coaching from Human Resources and/or Employee Assistance Program Counselors.

Read the next post in this blog series: Bring a Box of Tissues, and Other Real-World Tips on Conducting Layoffs. >>>

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How To Respectfully Lay Off Employees - The Complete Guide
The first post in our blog series dedicated to the best practices in performing a reduction in staff, this article covers the list of best practices in conducting layoff notification meetings
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