11 Best Practices for Preserving Dignity in Employee Layoffs

Preserving dignity in employee layoffs

"We don't need magic to transform the world. We carry the power we need inside ourselves already."- J.K. Rowling!

The reality is that layoffs are a difficult but necessary part of running a business. But while it may seem like magic, preserving the dignity of employees during layoffs is something that every company has the power to do.

In 2023, so far 503 tech companies have laid off 1,39,165 employees [Source]. Layoffs can be an emotional and challenging experience for both the company and the employees. But here's the thing - layoffs are not just about the numbers; they are about people's lives and livelihoods. So it doesn't have to be inhumane. In fact, it is possible to navigate these tough times with empathy and respect for the employees.

In this blog, we will be sharing with you 11 best practices for preserving dignity in employee layoffs. These practices will not only help you maintain a positive employer brand but also show your employees that you care about their well-being during this tough time. Let's dive in and explore these best practices together.

Layoffs are a painful reality for many businesses, especially during tough economic times. However, there are best practices you can follow to minimize the impact on affected employees and maintain a positive employer brand:

1. Maintain Transparent Communication

No one likes to hear the news that they're losing their job. It's a tough pill to swallow, and the process of laying off employees can be even harder.

One of the most critical factors in managing a successful layoff is effective communication. It's crucial to use clear and concise language when explaining the reasons for the layoff, providing written documentation to employees, and being honest about what they can expect moving forward. But don't just take the word for it – let's check out some data with you.

According to a survey by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 2019 saw the highest number of job cuts in four years, with over 592,500 jobs cut. That's a staggering number of people impacted by layoffs. [Source]. And unfortunately, poorly managed layoffs can have a negative impact on not just the employees being let go but also those who remain. 

So, how can you communicate effectively during a layoff to avoid this outcome? First, be clear and concise about the reasons for the layoff. Employees deserve to understand why the job is being cut, even if it's not good news. Providing written documentation can help ensure that all employees receive the same message and can refer back to it as needed.

It's also essential to provide details about the process and timeline. Be honest. Don't sugarcoat the situation or make promises you can't keep. Employees may be upset, angry, or scared, and it's crucial to acknowledge their feelings and provide support as needed. With the right approach, even a layoff can be managed with empathy and professionalism.

2. Share Information about Compensation

When a workforce is laid off, they are entitled to certain benefits and compensation, such as severance packages and unemployment benefits. It's crucial to inform employees about these benefits and explain how they can apply for them. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate was 4.2% as of September 2021 [Source]. With so many people out of work, applying for unemployment benefits can be a lengthy and confusing process. Providing clear instructions and resources can make all the difference for employees who may be struggling financially.

Additionally, many employers offer severance packages as a way to help ease the transition for laid-off employees. These packages can include things like a continuation of health benefits, outplacement services, and a lump sum payment. By informing employees about their entitlements, you can help them feel more secure and supported during this challenging time.

3. Adhere to Proper Legal Procedures

When it comes to employee layoffs, it's essential to follow proper legal procedures to avoid any legal consequences. The legal requirements for layoffs vary by jurisdiction, and it's vital to be aware of the regulations that apply to your company.

One of the important things to note is the requirement to give proper notice. Depending on the jurisdiction, employers may be required to give notice to employees before implementing a layoff, and failing to do so can result in legal consequences.

It's also essential to consider any collective bargaining agreements that may be in place. These agreements may dictate the process and requirements for layoffs, and failure to follow them could result in legal consequences.

Working with legal experts is a crucial step in ensuring that your company adheres to all legal requirements. Employment lawyers can help you understand the regulations that apply to your company and guide you through the layoff process to ensure that you're following proper procedures.

4. Provide Adequate Notice Period

When it comes to employee layoffs, providing adequate notice is a critical step in preserving the dignity of affected employees. But why is providing notice so important? Let's take a closer look at the reasons.

  • Providing notice gives employees time to prepare for the layoff. Losing a job can be a shocking and traumatic experience, and adequate notice can give employees the opportunity to adjust to the news, start making financial arrangements, and begin looking for new employment opportunities. It can help them feel more in control of the situation and provide a sense of closure to their current role.
  • It also helps preserve employees' professional reputations. When employees are suddenly laid off without warning, it can raise questions about their competence or performance, which can negatively impact their future job prospects. However, when employees receive adequate notice, it demonstrates that the layoff was due to business or economic reasons rather than their individual performance.

Furthermore, it helps maintain a positive relationship between the employer and the employee. Employees who are laid off without notice may feel abandoned or betrayed by their employer, which can lead to resentment and potentially result in legal action against the company. Providing notice can help maintain a respectful and positive relationship between both parties, which can be beneficial in the long term.

5. Offer Outplacement Services 

Outplacement services can include a variety of resources to help employees find their next jobs, such as resume writing and interview coaching. These services can make a significant impact on the job search process. 

When communicating about outplacement services, be sure to emphasize the resources that will be available to employees. Let them know that you understand the difficulty of finding a new job and that you want to help in the way you can. Provide them with information about resume writing and interview skills workshops, job search databases, and networking events.

It's also important to ensure that these resources are tailored to the individual employee's needs. Every person's job search process is unique, and providing personalized support can make a significant impact.

6. Treat All Employees Equally and Fairly

Picture this: you're a valuable member of a team that has contributed to the success of your organization. You arrive at work one day only to find out that you, along with several of your colleagues, are being laid off. It's a devastating blow, but what's even worse is if you find out that the process was unfair and inconsistent.

Hence, treating all employees equally and fairly is crucial during a layoff. How to ensure fairness during a layoff? Ascertain that there is to have clear and objective selection criteria. This means selecting employees for layoff based on job performance, seniority, and other objective measures rather than subjective factors like personal relationships or favoritism.

By treating all employees equally and fairly during a layoff, you can help preserve their dignity and ensure that they feel valued even during a difficult time. And ultimately, this can help maintain a positive company culture and reputation, which can be essential for retaining top talent in the future.

7. Provide Referrals

Providing referrals to other businesses that are hiring can help laid-off employees find new job opportunities quickly. As a company, you can reach out to other businesses in your network and provide your employees with information about available job openings. 

This not only helps your employees find new employment, but it also strengthens your professional relationships with other businesses.

In addition, offering to write letters of recommendation for laid-off employees can be a valuable resource for them. A letter of recommendation can help laid-off employees stand out to potential employers and showcase their skills and experience. As an employer, you can help by offering to write these letters for your employees, highlighting their strengths and achievements during their time with your organization.

8. Show Empathy and Compassion

Layoffs are a tough reality in the corporate world, and they can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty for the employees involved. As a company, it's important to handle layoffs with empathy and compassion to help maintain the dignity of the employees who are being let go. 

  • Understand that layoffs are a difficult time for everyone involved and that employees will likely be feeling a range of emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness. Acknowledge and validate these emotions to help employees feel heard and supported.
  •  Give employees the opportunity to ask questions, voice their concerns, and provide feedback. Be open to hearing their perspectives and address any issues or concerns that arise.
  • Express gratitude for the contributions that employees have made to the company, and let them know that their work has been valued and appreciated.
  • Avoid gossip, rumours, and negative attitudes that can harm employee morale and exacerbate the stress of the situation.
  • Provide a clear roadmap of the next steps for both the company and the employees, including any deadlines or requirements for paperwork or other tasks.
  • Continue to communicate with employees after the layoffs, checking in on how they are doing and offering any further support or assistance as needed.

Ultimately, the key to preserving dignity during layoffs is to approach the situation with empathy as well as compassion. By treating employees with kindness and understanding, you can help them feel valued and respected, even during difficult times.

9. Maintain Confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality during the layoff process is essential for preserving the dignity of affected employees. Confidentiality protects employees' personal and professional reputations and can prevent unnecessary stress and anxiety during an already difficult time.

Keep the layoff process confidential until it is announced. This means limiting the number of people involved in the process and maintaining privacy for affected employees. Only those individuals directly involved in the layoff process should have access to sensitive information about the affected employees.

In addition, maintain privacy for affected employees throughout the layoff process. This means ensuring that their personal and professional information is not shared with unauthorized individuals, including other employees.

Any information related to the layoff should be kept strictly confidential, and employees should be informed of their rights to confidentiality.

10. Respect the Employees' Rights

As an employer, it's important to respect the rights of your employees during this time and make sure that they are treated with dignity and respect. 

Honor any contractual and legal obligations that you have to your employees. This means providing notice as required by law, paying any owed compensation, and offering any promised severance packages.

Allow Employees to Ask Questions and Voice Concerns. This can help them feel more in control of the situation and allow them to better understand the reasons for the layoff. Be transparent and honest when answering questions and addressing concerns.

Remember, the way that you treat your employees during a layoff can have a lasting impact on their professional and personal lives. By handling the situation with care and empathy, you can help ease the burden and show employees that they are valued members of your team.

11. Conduct Exit Interviews

Conducting exit interviews is an important step in preserving dignity during employee layoffs. By offering employees the opportunity to provide feedback on the layoff process and company culture, employers can gain valuable insights and improve future processes and communication.

This can include questions about the communication surrounding the layoff, the support provided to employees, and the overall culture and values of the company. Employers should be prepared to listen actively and without judgment, as this feedback can provide valuable insights for improving future processes.

Employers should take the feedback gathered from exit interviews seriously and use it to improve future processes and communication. This can include making changes to the way layoffs are communicated, providing more support to affected employees, and addressing any cultural issues that may have contributed to the layoff.

By making these improvements, employers can demonstrate their commitment to preserving dignity and respect for employees, even during difficult times.


Employee layoffs can be a difficult process for everyone involved. Note that the process does not end once the employees have left. As a company, it is important to be prepared for the aftermath of layoffs and to take steps to support the remaining employees and rebuild the company culture.

Among the first steps to take is to address the emotional impact of the layoffs on the remaining employees. There may be feelings of guilt, sadness, or fear that need to be addressed. Make sure to have open lines of communication with your employees, listen to their concerns, and provide support where needed. This could include counseling services, team-building activities, or simply checking in with employees on a regular basis.

Reassess the workload and responsibilities of the remaining employees. They may have taken on additional work after the layoffs, and it is important to make sure that their workload is manageable and that they have the resources they need to succeed.

Rebuild the company culture and morale after layoffs. This could involve hosting team-building activities, creating opportunities for employees to connect with one another, or reaffirming the company's values and mission.

Kelly Tucker
Kelly Tucker
Founder and Managing Director at HR Star
HR is about putting humans back in the heart of every business - and that is what I do.

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