Layoff communications essentials: Before, during, and after

Speed, sensitivity, and consistency are just a few of the elements necessary for having things go as smoothly as possible during this difficult process.

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How a company conveys this awful news reflects its values. Every situation is unique, but here are communication guidelines I hope you never need.

1. Avoid a “bolt from the blue.” Brief employees on the condition of your business regularly so that a cutback does not blindside them. A vice president I know did such a good job communicating that he got a standing ovation when he announced a plant closing. Employees wanted him to know they appreciated his efforts to keep them in the loop.

2. Scrupulously plan. Plot every step of a closing or layoff announcement like a complex military maneuver. The order of “battle” is crucial.

3. Tell supervisors first. Stunned personnel may not remember all you say and will later grill their supervisors for clarification. Let supervisors know what you know so they can repeat the important information. They can even participate in notification planning. You’ll need their support.

4. Communicate fast. Because word will travel like a rocket once notifications begin, tell employees quickly to minimize the period of uncertainty. Compress time.

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