Layoffs can take a toll on anyone, regardless of whether you’re the person delivering the news or the one receiving it. Anxiety rises on both sides the moment the decision is announced.
While it may be difficult to remove all of the discomfort from the situation, HR leaders responsible for managing layoffs can take proactive steps to ensure they are prepared for workforce changes. Caroline Vernon, regional director of sales at CareerArc, shared insight she has gleaned from conducting more than 300 termination meetings over the course of her career in CareerArc’s recent #TalkHR webinar, “Compassionate Offboarding: Managing Layoffs with Empathy and Dignity.”
Here are some of the best practices Caroline shared to help with managing layoffs and bolster your company’s offboarding process.
Prepare to manage expectations
It’s crucial to remember the person who has just learned their position no longer exists is likely experiencing one of the worst days of their life. A person confronting such news can react in a manner inconsistent with their typical behavior.
Consider the following before entering a termination meeting:
- Give the employee time and breathing room: Often, terminated employees struggle to process information after learning their position no longer exists. Offer them time to formulate their thoughts and allow the conversation to flow from there.
- Prepare for the unexpected: It’s never easy to predict how people will react to layoff news. Have a game plan ready in case the conversation goes in a direction you weren’t expecting.
Anticipate emotional reactions
Brené Brown, a professor of social work at the University of Houston who studies courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy, writes that humans exhibit a range of approximately 30 emotions. Three emotions, in particular, come into play while managing layoffs: Anger, sadness and fear.
Understanding how to manage each emotion will serve you extraordinarily well as you seek to leave former employees with a positive impression of the company. Try using the following strategies during these meetings to maximize your impact.
- Plan where and when the meeting will take place. Before the meeting begins, consider the employee’s proximity to the doorway as well as your own. In addition, remember to be cognizant of whether others are likely to overhear the conversation.
- Remain calm throughout. Maintain eye contact, and show you’re responding without agreeing.
- Do not respond with phrases such as “It’s not the end of the world” or “it’s just a job.”
- Be supportive of emotional employees, but also refrain from touching them.
- Permit the employee to have time alone, if needed, to collect their thoughts and process their emotions.
- Offer them access to the company’s employee assistance program if they feel they could benefit from professional counseling or emotional support services.
- Seek to understand the individual’s sources of fear.
- Familiarize yourself with services your company offers to outgoing employees.
- Alert the departing employee to the availability of outplacement services, if your company offers them.
Offer outplacement services
There is, perhaps, no better way of easing the concerns of the departed employee than by informing them the company will help them find a new position. By partnering with an outplacement firm, companies can ensure former employees receive the services they need to find a new job that fits their skill set and experience while simultaneously protecting the company’s reputation.
Through one-on-one interview coaching and resume review, outplacement services can help boost the candidate profile of terminated employees, thereby offering them an advantage on the job market. CareerArc Outplacement offers former employees instant, on-demand access to career coaching and other career transition services. Request a demo of CareerArc’s outplacement platform for a deep dive into the services first-hand.
Listen to the full webinar here.