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5 Best Practices for Communicating a Separation

Posted on July 14, 2015
Amber PereiraWritten by Amber Pereira | Email author

As HR professionals, one of the hardest parts of the job is communicating to an employee the decision to separate them from employment.  Whether it be a performance related termination, or a financially related layoff; it is never an easy task. I find layoffs particularly difficult when it has nothing to with the employee’s actual performance, and everything to do with seniority or salary. More often than not, the delivery of bad news falls to the HR professionals with the belief that we know how to handle these situations the best, right?

How to Best Communicate a Tough Message to Employees

Here are 5 best practices for communicating a separation:

  1. Prepare beforehand the best you can. Finalize their Layoff Letters and/or Severance Agreements, and create an action plan. Consider matters such as, are you allowing the employee to pack their things, or will you mail them their belongings?
  2. Communicate with their Manager to organize the details and determine what everyone’s role will be. Decide who will invite the employee to the meeting, who will deliver the actual news and who will accompany the employee out of the office.
  3. Don’t apologize even if you feel like you should. No one is comfortable in these proceedings, and apologizing may give the employee the impression you think they have been wronged. Be empathetic, not apologetic.
  4. Help them maintain their dignity. Before they go home and face their loved ones, the employee must face their former colleagues as they leave. Make the process as easy as possible by either helping them pack, arranging a time after hours for them to pick up their items, or mailing them their belongings. Keep the meeting to a 15 – 20 minute time frame, have tissues on hand maybe even bottles water.
  5. Be honest with the remaining workforce. Nip the rumors in the bud by holding an all hands staff meeting at the end of the day to let them know that cuts have been made.  Be as transparent as your company will allow.  Is this the final round, or are there more to come?

Again, separations are never easy.  Being prepared, or even rehearsing what you plan to say will make all the difference.  Prepare for any range of emotions the employee may exhibit and attempt to be a calming force.  The remaining employees will look to you for guidance, and it’s our job to ease them through.

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