How to manage terminated employees and those who remain

High-profile layoffs at Meta and Twitter and planned layoffs at Disney have raised concerns among managers and senior executives at employers across the country struggling with how to manage a team with corporate downsizing.

How a company deals with downsizing can have a huge impact on its future success. A poorly managed workforce can damage a company’s reputation.

“You don’t want the people you fired to be splashing all over Glassdoor or whatever,” said Eric McNulty, associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.

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Former employees can become future customers, partners or colleagues.

“You can actually get those people back or refer people to you when you rehire later,” McNulty said. “So you want the alumni network to be in good shape.”

Be straight and transparent

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When announcing layoffs, an important first step is for business leaders to be both simple and transparent about the reason for the job cuts and their impact, experts say.

“Be clear, be mindful, and be compassionate,” says McNulty, co-author of You: Crisis, Change, and Leading When It Matters Most.

“Make sure people understand why you’re doing it,” he said. “Present the business case to them, and regular corporates don’t talk about ‘market conditions’.”

Paul Wolfe, a human resources consultant and board member at PayScale, said leaders should “explain the other options they are considering, how they hope to avoid having to make the decision again and how they are handling affected employees.”

Communicate with empathy

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Layoff messages need to come from individual leaders who are “front and center,” not “HR” or “leadership,” said Jennifer Benz, senior vice president of benefits communications firm Segal Benz.

Leaders must “show empathy” and be careful not to focus on their own feelings rather than “sympathizing with the situation they’re creating for the workforce,” he said.

Wolfe says one-on-one conversations are better than group meetings when discussing layoffs with your team, and planning the logistics of communications is also important.

“Ensure that access to the system and removal from folders does not occur before employees are notified,” Wolfe said. “I respect companies that protect their resources, but how they treat the affected employees speaks volumes for the employees who are still working there.”

“These employees were not criminals and they should not be treated like this.

Write the details

Meta and other Big Tech companies announce layoffs

Don’t force laid-off workers to do their jobs to understand information about severance pay, job placement or retraining and upskilling support, health coverage and other benefits, experts say. Spell them all out and be ready to answer the questions.

Laid-off employees may want additional information or request other benefits, and leaders must have answers. Alexandra Carter, a professor at Columbia Law School, advised companies that employees should not be fired for cause or performance if they ask the human resources department to provide a letter or official email stating that the departing employee was terminated.

Consider remaining employee concerns

Benz said companies must recognize that “it’s a very difficult time for the people who remain in this organization.” “Make sure managers and leaders are accessible to the rest of the workforce and can be clear about the future without over-promising.”

“Strengthen support resources, including mental health benefits,” she said.

Inform the remaining employees about the changes that may need to be made in light of the job cuts.

“Talk about what we’re going to stop doing now that we’re cutting a big part of this organization until we figure out how we can work as effectively as possible,” McNulty said.

Benz said business leaders need to be clear about the future and make sure any promises are realistic and followed through with action.

What should leaders not say? “We should never say we can do more with less,” McNulty said. “If you could do more with less, you should have done it earlier.”

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