4 tips to announce layoffs humanely

Communicate early and often, let employees have their say, and build up those who are staying on staff.

When layoffs loom, employees want their leaders to be clear and straightforward about what’s happening and why.

Navigating change isn’t easy, but employees want the truth—especially if the news is bad.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to communicate job losses, but if you do, here are four tips to handle the process with care and respect:

1. Communicate early and often.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news—especially when it affects colleagues’ livelihoods. However, change management research has revealed that employees overwhelmingly prefer advance notice. There’s nothing humane, helpful or respectful about saving bad news until the last minute or late Friday afternoon.

If execs are urging silence to avoid employee panicking or a hit to morale, remind them that lack of communication just makes things worse. Fight to share news and updates early and often, and give your team time to process what’s coming—logistically and emotionally.

2. Provide a go-to communications resource.

The rumor mill will be buzzing wildly when layoffs are afoot. You can’t prevent chatter, but you can counteract negative narratives on your intranet or on a microsite devoted to keeping employees in the loop.

Whatever platform you choose, share the business reasons behind the organizational change along with timely updates as the process unfolds.

3. Establish two-way communication.

Offer at least one channel for employees to share questions and concerns, and ensure that someone can respond in a timely manner.

Try creating a page where employees can post questions—anonymously or not—and read management’s responses. You can also distribute a quick survey that enables employees to offer feedback.

However you do it, encourage employees to speak honestly during this stressful time.

4. Communicate with those who are staying.

When job losses are announced, unscathed employees will be watching closely to see how the company treats those on the way out. They’ll also be listening intently to glean what they can expect in the future.

Actively engage remaining employees during this time. Layoffs are jarring and scary—even for those who remain—so take great care to uplift, encourage and inspire staffers who are staying on. Reinforce the big picture of what the company is trying to achieve, and remind employees of how their unique role fits into long-term objectives.

Brittany Walker is an account supervisor at Tribe, an internal communications agency working with national and global brands. A version of this post first appeared on the Tribe blog.

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