Layoff: Communicating with the Employee

Telling employees that they are going to be laid off is never an easy task. You may experience anxiety and guilt about having to take the action. Recognize that these feelings are normal. Making sure that you treat the employee humanely and compassionately will help to make this difficult situation more tolerable for both of you. Be sure to tell the employee to consult the applicable policy or contract.

  • Speak to the employee in a private place.
  • Recognize the employee's contribution to the unit.
  • Briefly explain the reasons for the layoff.
  • Describe the assistance that Central Human Resources offers.
  • Tell the employee of the date and time of the appointment with Employment Services and the importance of keeping that appointment.
  • Tell the employee what to bring to the appointment with Employment Services.
  • Be sure to give the employee a copy of the layoff letter, accompanied by proof of service.
  • Offer support and sympathetic ear; listen without being defensive.
  • If the employee wants to know who else knows about the layoff, say that you will be communicating to the staff after you talk to individuals.
  • Do not identify others being laid off.
  • Schedule a later meeting to discuss logistics such as turning in keys
  • Be available to address the employee's issues and concerns about the layoff

What you can expect from employees
When you tell an employee that he or she is being laid off, the initial reaction may be shock. The employee may say nothing, or the employee may become upset. Although you can't anticipate every employee reaction, preparing yourself for various responses may help you.

Reactions you may encounter from an employee being laid off:

  • Shock/Silence
  • Depression
  • Negative attitude toward work
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Increased accidents
  • Fear of having to accept a lesser position in the new organization
  • Loss of productivity
  • Grief
  • Helplessness

Reactions you may encounter from remaining employees after the layoff action:

  • Shock/Silence
  • Anger/Blame
  • Frustration
  • Negative attitude
  • Insecurity
  • Resistance to change
  • Unintentional sabotage by resisting organizational change
  • Depression

What you as the manager should keep in mind:

  • Be knowledgeable about the layoff process and available resources
  • Understand the employee's perspective
  • Handle your own anxiety by preparing yourself
  • Talk to other supervisors or managers who have had similar experiences
  • Maintain open communication
  • Don't downplay or discredit the employee's concern
  • Allow the employee to express how s/he feels
  • Employee Assistance is available to help the laid-off employee, other staff, and you.