Posted by: kenwbudd | March 2, 2009

Downsizing Checklist

The Layoff Checklist

Staff movement and layoffs are a fact of life, whether you are in a large or a small organization. The downsizing process is never simple and often unpleasant, especially if it is badly planned, managed and implemented. Your local HR department will have the most relevant experience and knowledge on how to do this, in the most professional and humane manner. The short checklist provided here is more concerned about the methodology rather than the reasons behind it. The checklist covers the main topics that every manager should know and understand prior to terminating one or more employee(s).


If its possible, communicate with and prepare your staff for the possibility of layoffs in advance. No termination should come as a complete surprise to an employee under any circumstances. They need time to consider or imagine the possibility.

Put your rationale in writing as well as explaining your decisions to upper management if necessary. Puting it in writing provides clarity and negates ambiguity and doubt.

On a practical level, establish a detailed plan for handling the workload after the layoffs have occurred, given that there will often be a period of low morale and disruptions.

Make a list of key files any employee may have, and arrange for their transfer.

HR are your touchstone, so check with them often. There will be defined procedures to follow; get the paperwork right, collect keys and badges, etc. HR people can give you helpful advice on dealing with the more emotional aspects of a layoff, and often provide supportive techniques for delivering the bad news and dealing with the reaction..

Keep everything on a safe legal footing. There may be specific things that you must, or must not, say. It is a time when you can easily leave yourself and the company open to litigation.

Put in place IT & Security policies to cancel access privileges immediately (within a few seconds) after terminating anyone. Angry or disgruntled ex-employees can and will, do significant damage to your systems the moment they return to their desks. Do not underestimate the impact of this. There are many documented cases of this happening.

Establish, in advance with all parties concerned, what will happen before, during and after the termination interview, e.g. who will escort employees back to their work space, how long the laid-off employees will have to gather personal belongings and who will collect keys and badges, etc. Normally security will play a role here. They are less ‘involved’ with the staff than the management and can be very professional and objective.

Managing the guilt and emotional reactions of the “survivors” as early as possible, is essential. Arrange to meet with them to communicate what has happened and why. Then explain the new work plans, address their fears and answer their questions, no matter how difficult

Do not forget your own feelings and emotions in all this and seek some good advice from your HR department. They will be best placed to tell you how to deal with what is happening. You are also one of the ‘survivors’ and you will be expected to do more with less, once the downsizing operation is complete.


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