I'm a first time team lead within my department and have been helping to manage my team for nearly a year now. Most of the management I've had to deal with were in regards to coaching and team building. Being that I'm fairly early in my career, I've never been laid off and being new to management, I haven't had to lay off an employee before. I wanted to get some insight and advice.

I had a meeting with the other supervisors in my department and the general consensus was that the lay off needs to come from my team which I totally understand and agree to. So I have to choose between two employees and have already picked one while we discussed this in the meeting. That happened on Monday. As the week has gone by, I have kind of second-guessed my decision. The lay off is planned to happen next week.

I want to find out from you if you had to lay off an employee, what did you take into consideration before doing it? How did you deal with laying off an employee because I personally don't feel all too good about this. Both employees that I have to choose from have okay performance. One of them joined the team a little over 3 months ago and the other was probably 9 months ago. It was a hard decision but I just want some feedback on what you may have done in case that could help me make a better decision before it's too late. Thanks for any feedback!

bug_girl's picture

I've had to lay off several people over the last few years, and I will be laid off myself in May.  I also was laid off from a job in 2001.  Here's what I've learned:

--No matter what you do, or what preparation you make, or which employee you choose, it will be painful and emotional for everyone involved.

--It's better to do things in person. Official letters may need to be written, but deliver them personally.

--Have Kleenex.

--People probably already know it's coming.  The whole office is probably already talking about it.  Be as transparent as you can, given limitations on personnel confidentiality.

--Choose who to lay off based on who contributes more, not on other personal factors. That's hard, but it's what you owe your organization. 
I have seen people around me retained while others are let go because they don't have kids, etc.  The result is that all of us are slowed down because the stronger employee was let go.  (It also is not technically a legal way to make a decision, because it's not based on performance.)

Laying people off and firing them have been the two WORST experiences that I've had as a manager. It made me question if I was in the right job.

If you weren't feeling bad about it, that would mean you were not taking a major decision that affects another human being seriously. 

So...expect to feel like crap. And know that you'll eventually suck it up and keep rolling.


I think somewhere there is a layoff podcast at MT--one of the regular folks can probably point you at it.

iceman209's picture

Another challenge that I will face is dealing with other employees in my department. I'm the team lead for only my group. I've become friends with some of my employees and with other employees on different teams in the same department. When the lay off happens (tentatively this Thursday), I'm almost certain that my friends will more than likely ask me questions trying to fish out information about the situation. As a representative of the company and to maintain confidentiality of everyone involved, I'm not really able to share that info with them.

How should I approach this? Should I just tell them that I'm not really allowed to talk about specifics or anything? The information is confidential and when it comes to friends, it's going to be hard to tell them I can't talk about it. Thanks for any feedback!

zurs3c's picture

I've found that most directs, even those that are friendly, will respect you for keeping confidential information confidential.  It's the professional thing to do and they will understand that.  Think about it like this - if you were the one being let go, you'd very much want your company and boss to respect your privacy.  It's up to the individual who is being laid off to speak to the others if they choose to do so (and aren't bound by any confidentiality agreements).

I agree that it's important to give some  message, and suggest you receive coaching from HR on how to communicate to  your team.  I used something like - Here's the situation and why we had to make a very hard decision and why it helps.  As a result, XXXX is no longer with the company.   Here's how we're going to move on.  

Also, if your company has a written policy concerning severance you can speak to how the company is supporting those laid off, but would only do so if you can refer to something written as you don't want to create any false expectations.

I sympathize and agree with Bug_Girl, it's not easy - and it shouldn't be.



tlhausmann's picture
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There is a Manager Tools cast entitled Compassionate Layoffs