3 methods to forestall ex-employees from seizing management of your layoff narrative


Keeping control of layoff comms

Probably the most difficult a part of layoff communications, past the human and emotional toll, is controlling the narrative: telling the correct story to workers who’re leaving, to those that are staying, to shareholders and traders, to most people.

However more and more, different events – usually those that have been laid off – are sharing their facet of the story.  When unaddressed, these incidents could cause severe hurt to worker morale, employer branding and common market sentiment.

Whether or not former workers are leaking layoff communications to the press, recording their very own terminations, sharing tales on social media or banding collectively and responding as a union, these actions can create new wrinkles. Navigating these conditions requires a robust partnership between each inner and exterior communicators earlier than, throughout and after layoffs to mitigate injury and reply with empathy.

Listed below are some widespread situations that may happen when particular person employees start to develop into the story within the wake of a layoff, plus how one can reply – and even forestall these situations totally.


Leaks are probably the most acquainted of those challenges to many communicators. It’s so simple as a present or former worker hitting “ahead” on an e mail message, screenshotting an intranet submit, or recording a city corridor and passing it alongside to a sympathetic reporter.

In a matter of moments, each phrase you so fastidiously workshopped with management can now be dissected or taken out of context.

However in lots of circumstances, this isn’t a catastrophe. Journalists who get their arms on these memos usually use them to tell their reporting on the layoffs, utilizing easy excerpts for instance the whys and hows for his or her audiences, as in this Wall Road Journal piece on layoffs.

A well-crafted layoff memo or e mail is value “leaking” your self. Whether or not which means proactively sending it to a trusted reporter or posting it in your web site, as eBay did right here, these communications may also help inform your story clearly. If it helps your workers perceive higher, likelihood is it’ll assist all audiences accomplish that.

The problem arises when the leaked communications aren’t put collectively nicely. Once they don’t respect the inherent humanity of the individuals dropping their jobs. Once they make the CEO holding the ax seem to be a sufferer.

We’ve seen this occur time and time once more. In 2023, the CEO of PagerDuty quoted Martin Luther King on the measure of chief in the identical e mail the place she introduced a 7% discount in pressure. In 2021, a video of the CEO of Higher.com shedding 900 workers through Zoom and as soon as once more making himself the principle character (“That is the second time in my profession I’m doing this and I don’t wish to do that. The final time I did it, I cried,” CEO Vishal Garg stated on the decision).

The underside line: Craft all layoff communications, together with speeches, with the expectation that they’ll leak. Should you wouldn’t be ok with the announcement memo showing on the entrance web page of the New York Instances, don’t ship it to your workers. Contemplate crafting the paperwork in such a method that they will serve exterior audiences in addition to inner stakeholders. Carry collectively your inner and exterior groups to elucidate the state of affairs with compassion – but additionally a eager understanding of the enterprise and its implications. Should you share your communications first, you’ll have the chance to border them in the absolute best mild.

Folks sharing private tales 

A Wayfair worker was about to go to a chemotherapy appointment to deal with her stage 4 metastatic breast most cancers when she bought phrase that she had been laid off. She was on medical go away on the time however was terminated all the identical, as she detailed in a LinkedIn submit.

(Sure, it’s authorized to put somebody off whereas on go away, whether or not medical or parental, so long as the go away shouldn’t be the rationale they’re laid off.)

That might have been a private tragedy, however a sequence of communications missteps compounded the worry, stress and nervousness that an individual present process chemotherapy needed to endure, together with lengthy pauses earlier than extra info was shared on the severance package deal and different particulars.

“To say this raised my nervousness can be an understatement,” Andrena M. wrote on LinkedIn. “I child you not my blood stress which is all the time regular, regardless of stage 4, was the best I can recall and my resting coronary heart price the best on report.”

Wayfair, after all, had its share of dangerous press for the way it dealt with worker communications generally and layoffs specifically, as our colleague Sean Devlin explains on Ragan.com.

The underside line: There is no such thing as a solution to make a layoff stress-free, however this degree of ready and nervousness is pointless. Set up the cadence of how info will probably be rolled out to terminated workers in order that it comes shortly, answering questions proactively with out leaving them questioning. Errors can occur and delays would possibly happen, however do your greatest to get info into their arms as shortly as you’ll be able to to allow them to go about their lives and plan their subsequent strikes.

And – this can be a bigger dialog available together with HR – think about whether or not it’s doable to let individuals end their go away earlier than they’re formally terminated.

As NPR notes, “Nonetheless, some employers do wait till the tip of somebody’s go away to implement a layoff. In some circumstances, they wish to give that particular person additional time to get again on their toes. Different instances, it’s to keep away from any probability of a pricey authorized battle.”

For extra info on how one can entry the total story and develop into a member of Ragan’s Communications Management Council, attain out right here.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Day by day. Comply with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


One Response to “3 methods to forestall ex-employees from seizing management of your layoff narrative”

    Rick Chambers, APR says:

    Years in the past, I used to be the media spokesperson when my firm closed a web site in a small neighborhood. An area reporter was going round attempting to get workers to talk, so I went to the location chief and requested for 4 workers keen to share their views actually and thoughtfully. I met with them and stated I wasn’t giving them speaking factors. I instructed them what I’d been saying, after which I added, “You don’t want to recollect any of that. As an alternative, I invite you to say what’s in your coronary heart. Share what you understand and what you’re feeling, as a lot as you’re feeling comfy.” Then I invited the reporter to return in to interview them whereas I gave them some house (although clearly nonetheless within the room). What ensued was an correct, frank and down to earth interview. The staff brazenly shared their fears, disappointment and uncertainties, sometimes with tears. On the similar time, they stated they understood the enterprise causes and had been grateful for the best way the corporate was supporting them (letting them know early on, providing severance, job search, and so forth.). The reporter was shocked once they assured him I hadn’t instructed them what to say. The consequence was an impressive page-1 story that helped the neighborhood perceive and are available to grips with the choice, confirmed how the corporate was serving to these affected, and portrayed the corporate as each caring and clear. Dangerous? Sure, massively so. But it surely was the correct factor to do, and firms ought to do it extra. Layoffs and web site closures aren’t only a bottom-line resolution; they impression individuals’s lives and entire communities. If corporations are going to make selections like this, they first have to have compassion for these affected — not simply in phrase, but additionally in supportive deed — and second, they will need to have the braveness to acknowledge the negatives in a significant, genuine method. When compassion, transparency and authenticity are the guiding ideas, leaks develop into far much less worrisome.


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