"Telling a good employee that he or she is being let go may be one of the most trying duties of management," said Pat Berg, general manager for the Career Management Services division of Personnel Decisions International PDI). "There is no easy way to give the news, but there is a right way. The right way is about being professional, respectful and as fair as possible to employees."

Personnel Decisions International offers these guidelines for managers of companies making layoffs.


-Provide notification training for your managers—it’s one of the most difficult jobs they do.

-Allow enough time in the planning process to assure your logistics are well designed and communicated.

-Give as much warning as possible for mass layoffs—a foreboding can be helpful.

-Conduct a threat assessment to ensure the safety and security of all employees.

-Have a packet of information prepared to give to the impacted employee regarding their severance, benefits, outplacement or other information that will be important to them.

-Sit down face-to-face, in a private office, with the individual and a human resource professional.

-Limit the notification meeting to 10-15 minutes, depending on the situation.

-Acknowledge the employee’s contributions. Don't be afraid to say, "Thank you".

-Inform employees at the beginning of the workday rather than the end.

-Treat people with respect.

-Use good listening skills and acknowledge employees' reactions.

-Use prepared notes and guidelines, if necessary.

-Clarify the separation date to make sure the news sinks in.

-Explain logistics of leaving the company.

-Provide outplacement services appropriate for the level of the employee.

-Have your outplacement firm on-site to meet with employees and engage them in the next steps.

-Provide references, if appropriate.

-Communicate the assistance you’re providing to employees, it is comforting to those left behind.

-Plan to meet with remaining employees in small groups or in a large group to begin the recommitment process.


-Allow for confusion when notifying the employee. Tell the individual in the first sentence that their position is being eliminated.

-Read your message—deliver it personally.

-Make personal comments. Keep the conversation professional.

-Rush the employee off-site unless security is an issue.

-Let people go on significant dates, such as the 10th anniversary of their employment or birthday.

-Notify employees on Friday or the day before a holiday.

-Notify employees when they are on vacation or have just returned.

-Open the conversation with, "How are you?" or "Good to see you."

-Threaten or berate the person.

-Talk about what might be occurring with other employees.

-Make promise you may not be able to keep.

-Use platitudes like, "I know how you feel." You don’t!

Personnel Decisions International (PDI) is a global management and human resources strategy consulting firm based in organizational psychology