5 Common Mistakes When Laying Off Employees

No one likes layoffs. It can be a tough decision when deciding to let people go, whether it’s one employee or a group of 1,000. HR has a multi-tiered role when laying off employees, starting with the initial planning discussions all the way through the offboarding process — and sometimes beyond.

With so much to consider and so much at stake, many companies make mistakes during the layoff process. It’s not uncommon to look back and reflect on things the organization could have done better.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but with a little proactive effort, you can at minimum avoid these most common mistakes when laying off employees:

Mistake: Laying off the wrong employees

It’s tough to hash through a list of people to decide who should stay and who should go. HR executives often look back with regret knowing they let go of the wrong people. To ensure thoughtful decisions, involve a variety of stakeholders in discussions and evaluate important considerations like skills, achievements, cultural alignment, and replacement value.

Mistake: Putting too much emphasis on recent events

When making layoff decisions, it’s easy to focus on the most recent events because that’s what’s fresh in your memory. However, other important considerations like loyalty and tenure should be considered in order to make a wise, well-rounded decision.

Mistake: Going with the crowd

Gathering in a room to discuss a team’s fate is not fun. However, this is not the time to shy into a corner. Too often managers, perhaps in fear of losing their own jobs, go with the general consensus when really they would have preferred to keep some employees that ended up on the chopping block. Even in tough times, great leaders will speak up and be heard.

Mistake: Making decisions too quickly

Layoffs can often happen in a flurry and that’s when forced, hasty decisions cause normally thoughtful HR professionals to make mistakes. An hour is not enough time to make smart decisions and take appropriate action. If possible, spread out the process so you can look at the situation from all angles in order to find the best solutions.

Mistake: Lack of compassion and post-employment relations

Laying off an employee is something that should be done with great care. Compassion and empathy should be at the core of each step. One mistake employers often make is not providing outplacement services to employees who were let go. Investing in these types of services not only helps you do right by employees, but it assists them in finding another job faster, so relationships remain intact.

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