Handling challenging conversations: How to communicate layoffs with empathy

two female coworkers have a serious conversation

Let’s face it: layoffs are never easy.

But when done with thought, they can be a little less traumatic for those affected.

In this article, we will share some tips on how to handle layoffs more compassionately. We will also provide some resources that might help make the process a little easier for everyone involved.

Be prepared for the conversation

When you’re preparing to communicate layoffs, remember that the conversation will be tough for both you and your employees.

Have all the facts at your fingertips and think about your delivery. This is not a time to pass blame or criticize anyone. Your goal is to communicate the news in a way that is respectful and empathetic.

Explain job loss with compassion

Start by explaining the situation straightforwardly without shying away from facts.

Remember that your employees are likely worried about their future and their families. Reassure them that you’re doing everything you can to help them through this tough time.

Be honest about the company’s situation and what led to the layoffs. Let your employees know that it’s not their fault and that you appreciate their hard work. Offer them resources like outplacement services or career counseling to help them transition into their next role.

Acknowledge and validate feelings
talking during an interview

Image Credits: theladders.com

You’re dealing with people. People have feelings. People have families. People have mortgages, student loans, and bills to pay.

Acknowledging and validating the feelings of the people you’re about to let go of is one of the most basic things you can do as a leader. It shows that you understand what they’re going through, and it helps to soften the blow a little.

Give adequate time to the conversation

When it comes to communicating a layoff, the last thing you want to do is rush through it. We encourage you to give yourself and your employees adequate time for conversations. They deserve plenty of time to process and ask questions.

You don’t have to be in each other’s presence for hours, but we suggest at least 30 minutes of conversation that allows room for emotions and reflection before saying goodbye—especially if you have worked together for many years.

This method also sends a strong message that you are still invested in their well-being despite the unfortunate news. Giving a person enough time can make them feel less neglected and ensure closure.

Provide resources to help cope with the change

Provide information about counseling services or financial resources available to them, such as severance packages or job placement assistance.

These resources can help ease the transition for them and provide them with a sense of security, knowing that you are invested in their success even beyond your own business.

Having access to online learning communities, such as webinars or workshops on how to adjust to the new change could be beneficial. Additionally, if you have business contacts that you can direct them to, offer those as well.

Providing tangible support they can use immediately makes the whole process less intimidating and help individuals be in control of their situation.

When you’re handling a challenging conversation like layoffs, be as empathetic as possible. Show that you understand how challenging this is for the other person, and be direct and honest with them. Explain the situation clearly and help them to see how this decision was made. It’s also good to give them some time to process the information and answer any questions they may have. Thank them for their understanding and let them know that you appreciate their contributions thus far.