Layoff: Communication Guidelines

Good communication is absolutely critical in the planning and implementation of layoffs. While the information you have to present is not pleasant, employees must hear it directly and honestly from management not from the rumor mill. Honest communication is one of the key ingredients in managing change as well as managing people.

Two-way communication, which provides for information flowing to employees and for ideas and feedback flowing back to management, will make the layoff process smoother for you and your employees. Employees will feel they have some part in making and understanding decisions that affect them, while you may get some good ideas about how to bring about the budget savings you must make. Many managers find that the best format for communication is either a series of meetings with the whole unit, or meeting with smaller work groups followed by individual meetings with employees.

This is an important time to practice the communication skills outlined in the Guide to Managing Human Resources, Chapter 13: Communications. Tips on communicating with employees during and after layoffs are included on this website.

Your Goals When Communicating About Change

Take time to think about goals and outcomes as you develop your communication plans. Typical goals when communicating about change are:

To provide information

  • To clarify the reasons for a change
  • To describe the benefits of the change
  • To draw a picture of the new organization
  • To describe how the change will take place
  • To provide information on support and resources

To gather information

  • To get input from diverse groups affected by the change
  • To learn what issues and concerns are raised by the change
  • To get feedback on how the change is operating

To affect attitudes and behavior

  • To show that change is a beginning
  • To create an atmosphere that supports the new organization or culture
  • To build trust by demonstrating honesty and inclusiveness
  • To create a positive, collaborative work environment

To offer support

  • To acknowledge resistance, anger, or sense of loss
  • To discuss responses to the change
  • To show how loss will be balanced by the advantages of the change
  • To provide tools (such as training and information) for managing transitions
  • To reduce isolation and foster teamwork

When Staff Reductions are Planned

Communicating with Management
All levels of management should participate in the discussion of plans before the plans are presented to employees. You should:

  • Consult with the Control Unit Head, if appropriate, to get approvals necessary for your actions.
  • Speak with individual managers before formulating a proposed cutback plan.
  • Hold a meeting with all managers to review your plan once it is developed.
  • Offer other managers and supervisors a chance to react, discuss, and help revise the plan.
  • Discuss cuts for specific areas with the affected managers before the meeting.

Communicating with Employees
Throughout the planning and implementation stages of a staff reduction, the most important thing you can do is to effectively and openly communicate with your staff.

  • Keep employees informed right from the beginning.
  • Solicit their input and ideas on how to consolidate work.
  • Ask for suggestions regarding voluntary reductions in time or other suggestion for saving money.