You had to let employees go… now what?

It’s happened: you’ve had to lay off an employee, or maybe a group of employees. It’s an emotional event, and one that requires professionalism and respect for the employees that are being let go. But what about those who are left behind? What do you do to manage their concerns and morale when they see their glum co-workers cleaning out their desks and turning in their keys? 

Here are some guidelines and suggestions from HR experts, as well as bosses, who have been in your shoes. 

Keep your employees informed. 

Hold a group meeting and share with your other employees the reason for the layoff, the health of the company, and other strategic decisions the company may be making that could affect your department. The more open and transparent you are after a layoff, the more optimistic your remaining employees will be about their future. 

Let employees talk it out. 

According to Steve Robbins, president of in Cambridge, MA, it’s imperative that you answer your employees’ questions, starting with the most pressing one: Am I next? 

“Employees who survive the cutbacks also need reassurance about their own future — and an understanding of the strategic goals behind the cuts,” he said. Give your employees a chance to voice their own concerns, and address them in a group setting. Be available to answer any employee question or concern one-on-one. Your employees need to be able to process the layoff, and two-way communication is key immediately following a layoff. 

Inform employees of any work changes due to the layoff. 

Now that a co-worker or group of co-workers is gone, how is this going to affect them? Are their job responsibilities going to change? Be clear on how any layoff will affect everyone else’s job, and communicate these changes. Discuss with your employees exactly how you will support them in any changes, so that they don’t feel unfairly treated.

For senior management: Have a frank discussion with your management team. 

If you have people who report to you that are managers themselves, you should plan to meet with them one-on-one and discuss how they will respond to questions about any layoff. One business owner interviewed said, “I have a meeting with my management team to talk about the people who report to them, and whether they think there will be a rippling effect from the layoff. Then we address it by meeting with that person one-on-one if necessary.” 

Treat others as you would treat yourself. 

Imagine if you are in the shoes of those who work for you. What would you want your boss to say and do in the aftermath of a layoff? One manager explained that her conversations with key employees aren’t always at the office. “I look for opportunities to take people out for coffee or lunch, so that we can connect on not only a business level, but a personal level,” she said. “I want my key people to know that I care about them and their future.” 

It is a tricky time for all involved, and engagement with your employees is key to overcoming anxiety. It demonstrates that you are invested in the people who work for you. 

The Hanscom FCU Partner Relations team provides employer benefits that generate employee engagement. Learn more about our no cost, no obligation, onsite Lunch and Learn events. Email me directly with questions. 

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About Author

Maria Porto
Maria Porto

Maria Porto is Hanscom FCU's assistant vice president of partner relations. She may be reached at

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