How To Respectfully Lay Off Employees – The Complete Guide

Because they know how to respectfully lay off employees, two managers hold a calm meeting with an exiting employee.

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: Intoo 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 information and resources to prepare for and conduct employee separation notifications, and how to lay off employees 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. Make sure you understand your objectives.

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 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 potential for 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.

For more information, download the Complete Guide: How to Conduct a Layoff Notification Meeting.

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

Don’t miss an important step in your Reduction in Force process. Download our Reduction In Force (RIF) Checklist

One important step in the RIF process is offering outplacement. Intoo helps employers protect employer brand and do right by their workforce by transitioning employees to land their next job 2.5 times faster than the national average time it takes to find employment. Designed for employees of all levels, industries, and backgrounds, Intoo’s coaching-first, award-winning online platform accelerates career transition by connecting candidates with career coaches faster and by providing personalized guidance for each individual. Learn more by scheduling a demo.

INTOO Staff Writer

INTOO staff writers come from diverse backgrounds and have extensive experience writing about topics that matter to the HR and business communities, including outplacement, layoffs, career development, internal mobility, candidate experience, succession planning, talent acquisition, and more.

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