During a layoff, communication is even more important. Employees who are leaving and those who are staying need to know some of the same things but for very different reasons, and those who are staying need additional information to help them make the transition from crisis back to productivity. The table below outlines the questions you'll need to address, the answers you should be prepared to give and what you're hoping to achieve.
Handled with intelligence and decency, communicating layoffs doesn't have to be a disaster. By preparing well, anticipating concerns and communicating honestly about why your company is taking this action and what it believes it will accomplish by doing so, you can use this occasion to create a shared sense of purpose and commitment.
- Communicate separately with those who will be going/staying: They need some of the same information but have different concerns, and they will react very differently to the news.
- Double-check the calendar: Is there an internal or external calendar event that could undermine your communication? Announcing layoffs on "take your children to work" day or the day you have local charities in for a meet-and-greet calls into question your message that you know what you're doing.
- Don't apologize: It will ring false. You're not sorry; by doing this you're saving the company and--let's face it--your own job. The company isn't sorry; it's doing what it has to do. It is, however, appropriate to express regret: "We're very disappointed that our business has been so badly affected."
- Don't make promises you may not be able to keep: "Downturn" is another word for "fast changing environment."
- Be proactive: Once you've informed employees, reach out to other constituencies who are likely to hear this news and be disappointed--media, local officials, community partners, regulators and legislators--and tell your own story before someone tells it for you.