How to Lay Off an Employee with Dignity


Being laid off can be an overwhelming, embarrassing and emotional experience. It's important to treat the employee humanely and compassionately to ensure the company and employee part on the best terms possible. An angry employee who feels disrespected and wronged by a company is likely to react in a negative manner. Also, remaining employees are likely to note how the layoff was conducted and how terminated employees were treated by management.

Schedule a Meeting

  • Schedule a private meeting with the employee on the day of the layoff. Never lay off employees via phone call, email or text message. Show respect to each person by giving the news in person, face-to-face. Close the door during the meeting and hold all phone calls to maintain privacy. Choose an appropriate location for the meeting where emotional outbursts or crying by the employee will not be seen or heard by co-workers to maintain dignity. Avoid holding the meeting in open areas, in front of others or in a conference room with any glass walls.

Get to the Point

  • Get to the point when conducting the layoff. Don't waste the employee's time or cause unneeded distress by circling around the topic. Let the employee know the layoff is not personal, and that his position or department was eliminated because of business necessity. Be direct, clear and honest when stating the reasons behind the layoff, such as the need to cut costs to remain competitive. Thank the employee for his service and state specific examples of his outstanding job performance to show the employee his work was appreciated.

Allow the Employee to Respond

  • Allow and encourage the employee to voice his opinion. Show respect by listening to what he has to say -- even if you don't agree with it. Give the employee some private time to collect himself before leaving the meeting and facing co-workers. Being laid off can be very upsetting for most people. If possible, offer to meet the employee at the office after hours or on the weekend so he can collect his personal belongings without co-workers around.

Offer Resources

  • Provide any resources the laid-off employee can take advantage of to help him in his search for new employment. Offer to write a letter of recommendation or inform him of potential business contacts he can get in touch with for networking purposes. Be supportive and understanding of the employee during this difficult time but avoid promising anything you cannot follow up on. Ensure the employee understands the layoff was not personal and the company is sincerely interested in his continued success.

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