5 Tips for How Employers Can Approach Layoffs Positively

Why should you conduct layoffs with a sense of positivity and possibility?

There are two main reasons that positivity is important: preserving your organization’s “employment brand” and maintaining high morale among remaining employees.

News travels faster than ever these days, and with the proliferation of instant publishing tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs your company’s environment and actions are always a potential topic of conversation. A disgruntled former employee can vent their feelings for the world to read and seriously damage your organization’s ability to recruit high-quality talent down the road. The economy will rebound, and you will again have to compete for talent because, after all, aligning the right people with the right strategy maximizes your success. Maintaining a positive employment reputation and expressing empathy even in difficult times bears fruit beyond what you’ll see in the short-term.

Your remaining workforce will likely feel the strain of any layoff. Minimize the tension to keep morale and productivity up. Transparency is the key; current employees should see and understand the layoff process because employees who feel their jobs are threatened will begin to look elsewhere.

These 5 tips provide guidance on what positivity looks like.

Obviously there’s no ideal way to conduct a layoff session since each employee and each situation is unique. A few general tips, though, will give you some ideas of positive approaches to the potentially painful session.

  1. Draw information from assessments. Ideally, the employee would have completed personality and conative profile assessments. These assessments contain information that can help you find and highlight the possibilities. For example, since these assessments profile the person’s natural ways of thinking, working, and relating to others you can use these indicators to help the individual identify potential careers or roles that will suit them well.Practically speaking, you can specifically mention the person’s unique qualities and strengths in letters of recommendation. You can also encourage the person to share their assessment results with potential employers during job interviews; this information may demonstrate to the potential employer just how compatible the person is with the open or future positions.
  2. Express appreciation. Spend time expressing and discussing with the individual the ways they’ve improved the organization. Make sure you review their work before going into the session so that you’re thoroughly prepared to be specific. With the employee, review and emphasize their strengths; it is not appropriate to not criticize or critique their work. You can suggest new career areas and positions that may fit the person well and enable them to find deeper career satisfaction.
  3. Provide (gentle) advice for their job search. Because you are well-acquainted with their assessment results and work history you are in a unique position to provide practical advice. If you know of open positions in other organizations that might be a good fit, now is the time to direct the person to the potential employer.
  4. Help the person envision a positive future. Sincerely express your appreciation for the person’s work and empower them to also consider the possibilities and opportunities that they may now have -- even encourage the person to explore their passions and interests and how those might lead to a new career. Remind them that unemployment is temporary and is not a reflection of their competency or ability. You may even want to share a personal story about a time in your own past when an apparent setback transformed into a successful endeavor.  Help demostrate a future that supports their interests and give a list of resources that offer free resources to help their search.
  5. Pay attention to remaining employees. Your remaining workforce will be affected by the layoffs. Avoid the temptation to retreat into your office and withdraw all communication; instead you need to reassure and rally your employees with positive messages, updates about the state of the company, emphasize the current goals, and keep information flowing. In the end this will reassure workers, prevent a drop in morale and productivity, and provide a sense of purpose and hope.

What recommendations or tips do you have to offer employers who are forced into the difficult position of laying off employees?