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Treating People with Dignity and Respect During Layoffs

During a layoff, it is the employer’s responsibility to handle the situation with respect and support so ex-employees can move forward in their careers.

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Posted On MAY 03, 2024 

Whether or not companies have justification to lay off employees is a complex topic with many variables. The reality is, sometimes layoffs happen, and when they do, it's essential to handle them with care and compassion.


Staff reductions are emotionally challenging for everyone involved, and they can leave a lasting impact on both the employees who are leaving and those who remain.


As an employer, it's your responsibility to handle these situations with respect and support your employees through this difficult transition, helping them move forward in their careers.


Tips for Employers


Assume your layoff conversation will go viral


Did you ever hear the old work advice, “Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want printed on a highway billboard”? Well now the advice is, “Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want remixed into a viral TikTok meme.”


The fact is, Gen Z is more comfortable being online and putting themselves out there than previous generations. You must walk into a layoff conversation assuming your conversation is being recorded.


What this means for you:


  • Be prepared. Have a script of what you are going to say and stick to it. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to get back to you on that” or “That’s not an area on which I’m qualified to speak.”
  • Don’t go it alone. Bring another person into the conversation with you. If you are a functional manager, have someone from the HR team. If you’re on the HR team, bring a colleague with you. Sometimes another voice in the room can ease tension.
  • Pause. It’s emotional for the people being laid off. Often they express emotions through tears or anger. Once you deliver the news of their transition, it can be tempting to rush into benefits, process, or next steps. Instead, give people a chance to breathe and process the information. Sometimes this means letting them sit with the news in the moment.


Support employees through the transition


Remember that at one point, your organization was thrilled to welcome this person to the team. Approach the situation with compassion, acknowledging the challenges they may face. Show your empathetic leadership by:


  • Providing clear next steps. Lay out the transition plan with as much clarity as possible, including any severance packages, benefits continuation, or outplacement services.
  • Offering job support services. This may include resume workshops, job search resources, or even career coaching sessions, fostering goodwill and aiding in reemployment efforts.
  • Keeping communication open. Maintain an open line of communication for any follow-up questions and concerns. Ensure they know who they can contact for assistance.


Facilitate Professional Growth Opportunities


Layoffs are often viewed as an end, but they can also represent a new beginning. By offering professional development opportunities, you help pave the way for your former employees’ future success, which in turn can enhance your company's reputation as an employer who genuinely cares about its workforce.


Strategies to consider include:


  • Professional training offerings that can help employees improve their skillsets and marketability.
  • Networking opportunities by facilitating introductions or providing references to industry contacts, potentially opening doors for their next role.
  • Educational resources that can help them pivot or advance in their career, like access to online courses or industry certifications.


It’s in the best interests of all parties to ensure layoffs are handled with the highest level of dignity, respect, and support. Layoffs, despite being corporate decisions, deeply affect individuals—it's vital to remember that behind every job title is a human being with aspirations and concerns. Your role as an employer doesn't just encompass fiscal responsibilities but extends to the humane treatment of your staff during all phases of employment, including its end.


Remember, today's employees may be tomorrow's clients, partners, or brand ambassadors, and how they were treated during layoffs will long be remembered.


For more information on how LHH can assist your organization through workforce transitions, contact us or explore our solutions online.


Reach out to the LHH team to get bespoke outplacement solutions tailored to your unique organizational needs.