How to tell someone they’ve been made redundant

Telling people they've been made redundant is a difficult task.

When companies are restructuring, the focus naturally is on the employees being made redundant. Yet those tasked with telling someone they’ve lost their job can suffer too, and often in isolation. Making staff redundant is about more than change management and correct procedures. There are a lot of feelings involved too, on both sides of the desk.

When there is no other option but redundancies

In an economic downturn, the realities of management are that you are likely to have to let people go.

When the temporary shutdowns and reduced hours have failed to work, many businesses take the next step and start making redundancies. Managers are instructed to review roles and select candidates for redundancy, and then break the news to their staff that they’ve lost their job.

Usually the focus is on how terrible it is for the person being made redundant, the one losing their income. And that is rightly so.

But making staff redundant can also be traumatic for managers. Often it is an experience for which you are ill-prepared and woefully under-equipped.

It’s tough to tell someone they’ve been made redundant

Telling colleagues – who are often friends – they are being made redundant is one of the most emotionally demanding tasks for managers. The closer the relationship, the harder it is.

These are people you have recruited, mentored and developed. You have forged relationships with them over the years, spending many hours with them both professionally and personally. They’ve told you about their hopes and concerns, you may have shared yours.

Then one day, instead of discussing last night’s TV with them you’re telling them their job is gone.

You probably couldn’t even give them any warning about it. Instead you had to keep quiet as they told you about the holiday they’ve just booked or the house they plan to buy…

Remaining strong under pressure

You may be feeling great emotional turmoil. But your role as manager in the process is to appear calm and in professional control despite facing shock, anger and pain as people hear the news. You have to retain a respectful yet compassionate stance during what is likely to be one of the more difficult moments in someone’s professional life.

You may feel you have a ‘moral obligation’ to carry out this job because of your strong bond with your team. However that closeness also brings the danger of becoming emotionally involved and losing control of a tough situation rather than managing it.

How can an outplacement company help?

Glide Outplacement offers two specific services for managers – training in handling the process and an onsite consultant to deliver the news.

1. Redundancy training

This ensures you have access to legal, practical and emotional support. We can provide expert guidance on striking the right balance between being humane, without sounding either brusque or sentimental, or making what you are saying sound trivial.

It also allows you to privately let off steam about the experience while being able to ask questions about employees’ rights and their support options.

2. Onsite support

Using a specialist outplacement firm can bring a degree of neutrality and independence to the redundancy process.

Outplacement consultants can support you when you are announcing redundancies or telling someone they’ve been made redundant, depending on how confident you are about the task.

If delivering the news, the consultant acts as a ‘bridge’ between the employer and employee. They remain respectful and sympathetic towards the employee while keeping the focus on what the business needs.

As a neutral third party, they can manage the process without their emotions adding to the situation. It is strongly recommended a manager (whether the line manager or company representative) still continuously contributes to the process.

The positives of redundancies

Although it may be of little consolation at the time, there is a positive aspect to making people redundant; it can be beneficial. Coping with the bad times as well as the good, making tough decisions and leading teams through difficult times can make you a stronger, better manager.