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How to Conduct Employee Layoffs with Sensitivity, Understanding, and Grace

Conducting employee layoffs can be described in a lot of ways. They’re uncomfortable. They’re challenging for both the employer and employee. They can be emotional, anxiety-inducing, and stressful experiences. 

But they’re also opportunities. Layoffs done with sensitivity, understanding, and grace are opportunities for companies to advance their brand, boost morale, and improve loyalty in the workplace

What are employee layoffs

Employee layoffs involve employees being let go because of some change their company has decided to make or a new direction their organization is headed. Reasons an employee might get laid off includes:

  • Their company is downsizing and trying to save costs.
  • Their company is restructuring its business model.
  • Their company is no longer offering a service/product related to specific employees’ duties. 
  • Their company is relocating to a different region/state/country. 
  • Their company has been acquired by another organization. 
  • The seasonality of the position.

How are employee layoffs different from firing employees?

When an employee is fired, they are terminated because of some action, behavior, or occurrence that is the employee’s fault. What both being fired and laid off really comes down to is fault. When an employee is at fault for an action that results in being let go of, they’re being fired. If an employee is being let go of because of reasons that are no fault of their own, they’re being laid off. 

Legal issues with employee layoffs

HR teams should be aware that employees can take legal action if they feel they were unfairly let go of or poorly treated in the layoff process. Sometimes, it takes even less than that. Layoffs come with a lot of emotions that can turn into lawsuits. 

In order to deter lawsuits and lower the chance of facing any legal action, you should:

  • Try to find alternatives to laying off employees. Is there a way to make pay cuts, cut other costs, ask employees to reduce their hours, or place a freeze on hiring and raises for a period of time?
  • Have legitimate business-related reasons for making the layoffs and be able to refer to some kind of data or documentation for those reasons. 
  • Review your policies. Most companies have their own best practices and policies for layoffs, which make the process much easier for HR teams and hiring leaders.
  • Review any employee contracts. Some contracts require severance and have contingencies on the possibility of a layoff.
  • Make sure your process for the layoffs is fair, equitable, and objective. Any kind of bias against certain employees for reasons that are not business-related can be used against you in a court. 

How do layoffs affect employees

Layoffs affect both employees who are laid off and employees who remain with the company. Laid off employees deal with high amounts of stress, anxiety, and shame. And studies show similar effects for employees who remain in your company. After layoffs, it’s not uncommon to see dips in employee morale, productivity, engagement, and trust. 

  • A Lending Club study found that 61 percent of the U.S. population is living paycheck to paycheck, making the stressors of being laid off all the more exacerbated.
  • Getting laid off can be both stressful and traumatic, and in some cases it may lead to PTSD.
  • A study by researchers at Stockholm University and the University of Canterbury found that “surviving employees” experience a 36 percent decline in company loyalty, 41 percent decline in job satisfaction, and a 20 percent decline in job performance.
  • 74 percent of senior managers responded to a survey by stating that productivity, trust, and employee satisfaction saw a decrease after downsizing. 
  • A Harvard Business School study found that productivity fell by nearly 25 percent at a Fortune 500 tech firm after they cut 15 percent of their staff. 

Layoffs have a negative impact on both your remaining employees and the employees you had to lay off. Employees who are laid off will struggle with the uncertainty of their careers and financial situations, and remaining employees may wonder if they’re next or if their organization is no longer looking out for their best interest.

One way to mitigate the repercussions of layoffs is with a supportive, empathetic, and understanding layoff system. 

How to communicate employee layoffs to the company

Sensitive and emphatic layoffs start with communication. If you’re going through downsizing or extensive layoffs, you should consider training managers and team leaders for common language and best practices when conducting layoffs. 

Try following the strategies when communicating with employees during a layoff. 

  • Don’t beat around the bush. Be transparent, thorough, and communicative when explaining the reason of the a layoff. 
  • Listen to employees and give them space to ask questions. Employees may want to know why they’re being laid off or express their own concerns. This is the time to actively listen and give them the space to voice their questions. 
  • Don’t be quick or clinical. There was a time when layoffs involved a simple notification, some paperwork, and the cleaning of a desk area. Today, brand image, satisfaction, and your ability to acquire new talent are all considered during layoffs.
  • Continue to communicate with your remaining workers. Assess their workloads and keep tabs on them during the transition period following a layoff. 

How to conduct employee layoffs with sensitivity and grace

Once you’ve got the right kind of language and common language down surrounding layoffs, the rest of the process mainly has to do with providing support to your employees during their difficult transitions. You want to take a supportive role with both your remaining employees and the employees who were laid off.

You can do this by:

  • Following up on employees who were laid off. 
  • Asking them about their prospective career options. Genuinely consider ways you can help them or industry leaders you can connect them with. 
  • Refrain from any farewell parties or events. This might seem like a good idea, but it might rub some employees (whether they’re remaining or leaving) the wrong way. 
  • Give them an adequate amount of time to find new work and begin their transition out of your organization.
  • Give them the support they need with a layoff assistance solution, like Crosschq Assist. 


How Crosschq can help with employee layoff assistance

It’s easy to say that you care about your employees and are invested in their futures, but how you can demonstrate or show that commitment? Crosschq Assist gives you the opportunity to take a more supportive, sensitive, and graceful approach to layoffs.

With Crosschq Assist, your employees gain access to recruiters of 1,500+ organizations, Crosschq’s sourcing database, consultation meetings, and expert guidance from start to finish.

Click here and learn more about how you can conduct understanding and sensitive layoffs with Crosschq Assist today. 

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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