Layoff Resources- Guidelines for Managers & Supervisors

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Topic- Communicating with Employees

Notifying the Employee of Layoff

Informing an employee that they have been designated for a layoff is difficult. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news and no one likes to receive it. Yet, it is part of the responsibility of a supervisor. The purpose of this section is to assist the supervisor in conducting a successful notification meeting with the employee.

The objectives of the notification meeting are to:

  • Issue the written layoff notice

  • Communicate clearly that the decision is final

  • Provide the facts behind the decision in a clear and straightforward way

  • Encourage the employee to start thinking immediately about his or her future

The Role of the Supervisor

Understanding your role is critical. You can expect to receive a wide range of reactions, which are normal under the circumstances. However, your skill in conducting the meeting can minimize negative reactions by helping the employee to focus immediately on what to expect next.

Some ideas for managing the meeting include the following:

  • Be compassionate and show sincere understanding, but maintain focus on the message to be communicated

  • Clearly state what is happening, without being rude or curt to the employee

  • Listen carefully to the employee's response, but keep to the time allotted for the meeting

  • Be sure you communicate that you support the layoff decision. Do not blame the decision on a higher authority, and do not confuse the employee with personal opinions regarding the validity of the layoff decision

  • Provide the employee with clear guidance to available resources

Planning for the Meeting

  • Write and practice a script. (see sample below)

  • Schedule the meeting for the day of notification, and start the meeting on time.

  • Do not allow the meeting to be interrupted, so have all phone calls and interruptions held.

  • Follow your script; resist the impulse to improvise.

  • Limit the meeting to 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Clearly state that the layoff is grounded in business necessity.

  • Do not argue with the employee.

  • Assume the employee will be working the full notification period; however, there are rare instances in which it is appropriate to immediately release the employee (about which you will discuss with Staff Human Resources prior to the action).

Sample Script

  1. Greet the employee: Say something like, "I'm glad you could meet with me on such short notice, please have a seat." Make the employee feel comfortable. Keep your greeting friendly but succinct.

  2. State the circumstances of the layoff: Indicate the facts that have led to the layoff situation. You might say something such as, “because of the current financial situation of our campus / department, there has been a budget cut, a reorganization, etc.

  3. Explain the layoff:

    Clearly state the following facts:

    • A decision has been made to eliminate some positions.

    • Your position has been eliminated.

    • This decision is final.

    • Review timing and next steps.

  4. Discuss the transition: It is critical that the employee knows what happens next. Let the employee know clearly what activities or projects he or she needs to complete or hand over. If an employee’s time is being reduced, do not expect the employee to do the same amount of work, but in less time. You must modify the job and explain the modifications to the employee.

  5. Listen carefully and be supportive: Allow the employee time to react. If the employee is upset say, “I understand that you are upset”, and express your support and understanding. Avoid promising anything you do not really have the time or inclination to do. Do not argue with the employee.

  6. Express support and understanding: You are available and interested in hearing how things are going. In the case of a layoff, you are offering support. Be clear about what "support" means (e.g., you are willing to make time to talk to the employee further; you are willing to provide networking suggestions; you are willing to provide computer access so the employee can develop or update a resume; you are willing to provide professional contacts). Again, avoid promising anything you do not really have the time or inclination to do.

  7. Meeting length: The notification meeting should be short, allowing just enough time to say all that needs to be communicated, and for necessary questions from the employee (10 to 15 minutes).

Meeting with the Department

  • Meet with all department employees.

  • Give the laid off employee(s) a choice of attending the meeting or not.

  • Use the meeting as an opportunity to cement loyalty and to encourage forward-looking attitudes.

  • Be prepared to answers questions such as,

    • "Who is getting laid off?"

    • "Will there be more layoffs?"

    • "How will the remaining work get done with fewer people?"

Keep in mind that employees who survive a layoff may feel a sense of guilt. It is important to communicate directly with “survivors” because these employees also feel the impact of their co-worker's layoff as well as increased uncertainty, “survivor guilt” and/or the impact of changes in their work.

Suggested ways for supervisors to facilitate departmental morale

  • Provide open and empathic communication to employees throughout the layoff process. This promotes trust and can reduce problems with morale and productivity.

  • Communicate with employees before, during, and after downsizing to the extent possible, both formally and informally. This could include staff meetings, newsletters, memos, e-mails as well as one to one and group meetings.

  • Provide updates with accurate information, which helps dispel rumors or inaccurate information.

  • Communicate with survivors of job loss (those woho keep their jobs), as these employees also feel the impact of their co-workers' layoff, e.g.,increase uncertainty, survivor guilt and or changed work duties.

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Revised October 2012: C.26