Handling Layoffs with Compassion

Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally



Over a year ago my company decided to restructure itself, and it resulted in a lot of people being laid off. I was asked to let go of 25 people out of the 100 engineers that I managed. Half of these were contractors, so it wasn't too hard to let them go. However, the other 12 were in my office and people I had worked with for many years.

I had seen layoffs occur many times in the past and didn't like the way they were handled (my previous boss called a meeting in the middle of the day, with a group of 10 people from various parts of the organization, told them all at once, and then had them go back to their desks and gather their things to leave). It was heartbreaking to watch. My husband's company did a major layoff on a monthly call with thousands of people on the line. They announced on the call who was being let go. Both of these ways of letting people go seemed heartless to me, given the time and energy people give to a company.

Actions taken

When the time came, I had to decide how to do handle the situation. I was lucky to know the team well and so was not worried about any issues. I decided to handle it a different way and when it was done, the people who had been affected thanked me.

First, I let the managers know before it was going to happen. I wanted them to understand so they could help me calm everyone else down after it was done. Then on the day of the layoff, as people came into work, I pulled them in one by one and told them what was going on. I told them to get their things and work from home for the rest of the day. The next day, they came back early in the morning, before anyone got there, and cleaned out their desks and then went to meet with HR. Mid-morning, when I was done, I gathered the rest of the team to tell them about what had happened. A week later we all met for a going away lunch.

Lessons learned

I realize it's not always possible to lay off people like this, as at most companies, people have to be escorted out right away. Another way to handle this type of situation is to call an early morning meeting with each person individually and do it one-on-one before too many people are in the office. Laying people off is the hardest part of the job, so making sure those people are treated with respect and consideration is important.

Be notified about next articles from Mary Nicknish

Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership RolesTeam & Project ManagementDiversity & Inclusion

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up