Conducting mass lay-offs the right way

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This year, Target announced that it would be closing all of its Canadian operations, resulting in the elimination of 17,600 jobs and the second biggest corporate layoff in Canadian history.

While there are no right, wrong, or easy ways to tell employees that they are facing redundancy, there are some things that employers can do to soften the blow.

Before the announcement

Target’s decline was no secret – the company’s profits were down by hundreds of millions in 2014.

According to Gene Grabowski, partner at kglobal, it’s important to maintain a level of transparency before and throughout the layoff process.

“The first rule of conducting a layoff properly is to be honest and transparent,” he said. “Try to keep advanced news of the layoff non-existent, but if you fail at that and you’re conducted by employees or the media, be honest and say something like ‘all options for managing the company’s current situation are on the table, just as they always are’.”

Making the announcement

Grabowski’s suggested approachshould continue until the official announcement is made to your staff.
When it comes to making the announcement, don’t try to shift the blame. While it may be tempting to place the blame elsewhere, accountability will secure the highest possible trust and loyalty with employees and existing stakeholders.

“Don’t sugar-coat or obfuscate anything,” Grabrowski added.

People first

Employees’ personal needs should always be a top priority – not only because of ethics, but because of maintaining your company’s reputation.

If organisations aren’t sensitive to the importance of layoffs on departing workers, they run the risk of creating bitter ex-employees. It is advised that the layoff should occur early in the week; the productivity of the workweek will inspire employees to begin their job search rather than allowing them to grow angry over a weekend.


According to Dr. Nita Chhinzer, assistant professor of HR at the University of Guelph’s Department of Management, news of redundancy should ideally be delivered by a senior leader.

She added that one-on-one meetings are also ideal; but in larger organisations they can create a “grim reaper effect”.

An ideal middle ground, Chhinzer said, is holding a town hall style meeting that allows employees to express their voice.

Other things to consider providing when delivering the news are:
  • Having a procedure in place for employees to gather their belongings safely
  • Providing pre-arranged taxi trips in case workers are too distressed to drive home
  • Hosting an employee relations professional on-site if additional counselling is needed
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