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The Next Worst Thing to Being Laid Off

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Delivering the Bad News: Guidelines for Announcing Lay-Offs 

Lay-offs are difficult for everybody. For each individual who loses his or her job, there is someone responsible for delivering the bad news. The way that information is conveyed has a significant impact on both departing employees and those who remain with the organization. If you demoralize your workforce through poor communication, you’re going to be left with the “working wounded.“

The following are five essentials for announcing staff reductions:

  • Tell employees first, working in collaboration with your legal department to insure regulatory compliance.  Show respect for employees by informing them about layoffs directly.  No one wants to learn about job losses from the media. 
  • Communicate on an ongoing basis, focusing on two kinds of information: 1) Have senior management provide information about the organization’s “big picture.” It’s important to tell the whole story – why is this happening now? 2)  Direct supervisors to give employees more personal information about what the announcement means for their jobs.
  • Take responsibility for the underperforming business. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s letter to employees about pending layoffs last July attributed the company’s difficulties to “poor real estate decisions that were made, coupled with a very troubled economy.” Bravo to Starbucks for acknowledging that its quest for expansion clouded its judgement in site selection.

  • Ditch the PowerPoint and show your human side. The Carat media agency learned this the hard way in September when its Chief People Officer mistakenly emailed an internal “right-sizing messages” PowerPoint intended only for senior managers to all employees. Rank and file employees learned of impending layoffs when they read the exit scripts that had been prepared for them.
  • Put some leadership skin in the game. When there are problems with the business, employees are the first to go. Demonstrate that “the buck stops here“ by announcing how company leadership is also sacrificing. Top executives at Goldman Sachs recently announced they will forgo bonus pay for their work in 2008, in light of the financial industry’s distress.

© JRS Consulting, Inc. 2008

By Jenny Schade, president, JRS Consulting. JRS Consulting helps organizations dramatically increase attraction among customers and employees. Jenny Schade has interviewed more than 1,000 employees while guiding organizations through turbulent change. Get more tips from the free JRS newsletter.

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About the author

Jenny Schade


  • After having been a victim of downsizing myself at the beginning of the year, I can honestly say it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I now run an internet marketing firm and work from home and make more money now then I was before. I know it isn’t the same for everyone, but it’s important to believe and stay positive!

  • Web Marketing, congratulations on your success and thanks for sharing your story. Could you tell us a little more about what you did to result in such a happy ending?

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