When You Have To Lay People Off

Dear HRart Worker,

It appears that we aren’t quite finished with feeling the effects of a global pandemic on our organizational budgets. 2020 gave several companies a wake up call to the redundancies they create when bypassing workforce planning and simply adding positions for work they needed done. Positions created out of reaction rather than strategy often lack the sustenance needed to truly provide value to an organization, if ever questioned and faced with a true analysis regarding value. 

Yet, the questions I have been getting have nothing to do with job design and workforce planning but about that awkward period when layoffs or job eliminations are given with a heads up.

This is that situation where the employee that is soon-to-be-unemployed is still working for a period of time while knowing that their employment is coming to an end. I’ve had multiple leaders reach out to me at a loss of how to act with these employees, especially when they were solid performers but new budget cuts made their lay off necessary. 

My advice is simple: share gratitude and tell them that you appreciated all their hard work while they were there. Offer to be supportive as they seek other employment opportunities, by being a personal reference (if company policy permits you).  

It’s important to maintain the bridge with these individuals, they are going forth and could become future customers or a referral source for future employees. Not to mention that I’ve been involved in so many rehiring situations, where things change or we create a new position that we know a previous employee would be perfect for. There’s no doubt the situation sucks, but don’t tiptoe around and make it even more awkward. 

All this to say that yes… this is a difficult situation for both parties that requires a lot of care and energy. Take good care of yourself so you can face this transition with as much warmth and empathy as is needed.

As a Wellness Center devoted to healing for cultivating work-life balance, we have many resources available to help you get your energy centered on difficult days. Here are my recommendations to start: listen to Abdominal Breathing to Release Stress and Releasing Anxiety.

Take care of yourself and well wishes for a brighter path ahead.


Samm (she/her/hers) 

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