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Inspirational Workplace Q&A – We’re Having a RIF. What Can We Do To Help Our Laid Off Employees Make the Transition

Photo by Tim OBrien

Photo by Tim O'Brien

Q:  I am so overwhelmed.  I work in Human Resources for a mid-size business, and we’re having to reduce our staff.  I’ve worked side-by-side for several years with many of these people, and it breaks my heart that we’re having to do this.  How can I make this easier for them.

A: First, I want to acknowledge that this is hard for you, and I commend you for going the extra mile to ask the question.  Let me give you some do’s and don’ts to help you move forward in a more positive manner.

Do: Recognize that this is going to be difficult and emotional for you and the person receiving the news.  It is OK to be empathetic.

Don’t:  Shut down emotionally.  It’s tempting, because no one wants to be a sobbing ball under their desk.  However, when the person delivering the hard news is “all business,” they appear cold and uncaring.  That sometimes hurts more than the news itself, and it ruins the good will that you and your company may have built over the years.

Do:  Give yourself a break.  This isn’t going to be an easy time for you.  No one likes to be the bearer of bad news.

Don’t:  Treat the laid-off worker like a criminal.  Unless there is some reason to suspect that an individual will cause problems, allow them to pack up and say good-bye with dignity, if that’s possible in your company.

Do: Create a package of resources for the laid off employee.  Most cities have free and low cost options for career services.  Many religious institutions offer it as a part of their ministries.  Compile a list of these, as well as support groups and how to file for unemployment.

Don’t:  Make it difficult for the terminated employee to get information after they leave.

Do: Be as open and honest with the remaining staff as you can be.  This is a traumatic event for them, too.

Do: Purchase outplacement services, if your company can afford it.  Outplacement services provide support, guidance, a place to go, information, seminars, training, and expert advice.  If your company can’t afford outplacement, look for alternatives.  Many coaches offer less expensive alternatives that yield comparable results.  The benefit to the company is again the goodwill, and it increases productivity and retention with the employees that remain.

Many people do come out of a reduction in force ahead of the game.  While it feels awful for all involved at the time, for many it creates opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.  Having help and support can be the key to getting a good or even great outcome.

Thanks for your question.

Be Your Best Self Today,


p.s. – There is a definite cost in the “inspiration” part of the inspired workplace as people are involuntarily terminated.  Part of being an Inimitable Leader™ is being able to make those tough decisions and maintain the respect and commitment of those who remain.

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