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Ask HR: How Can Managers Support Employees After a Layoff?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. 

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.


We recently laid off 3 percent of our workforce. As a manager, how can I best address the needs of co-workers who survived the layoff? Some might have lost friends, been burdened with extra work, or are concerned about their careers. —Adeer

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm glad you are thinking about this. It is something often forgotten, dramatically affecting the remaining workers and the future success of an organization. As a manager, it can help to share why a layoff was necessary and share the company's future direction to help employees accept a new vision. For employees who lost friends and are burdened with extra work or uncertainty about their careers, you can do a few things as a manager to help ease their minds.

For those who lost friends, acknowledge how challenging this must be, especially if they had a long history of working together. If applicable, it's OK to share how you as an employer have supported the departed employee, such as with a generous severance package or outplacement services. For those burdened with extra work, having regular check-ins and providing clarity on new roles or expectations can be helpful. Be sure to share if the additional workload is temporary or will be an ongoing expectation for them. If they are concerned about their own careers, consider meeting individually with your employees and letting them know they add value to the organization and contribute to its success. However, if you're still determining if there will be additional layoffs, be careful not to make any promises of job security.

Frequent and honest communication during this transition time is critical so employees are aware of what's happening. Managers may wish to check in more frequently with employees during this post-layoff period. Allow time for employees to vent and grieve their co-workers' loss; listening is valuable. It is nearly impossible for managers to overcommunicate with employees during this challenging time.

Your question tells me your head and heart are in the right place to support your workers. Continue to lead with empathy as you sort through this ordeal, and you will undoubtedly end up in a better place. Best wishes.


I've often seen where employers outline policies for resignation and heard about different unwritten rules for quitting a job. Why does the manner in which people quit matter?Cesar

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: How people quit their jobs matters for several reasons.

One, it may be required by your employer's policies or contract. Employers usually require a resignation notification period from departing employees—this is often a two-week notice but may be longer for higher-level positions. If an employee does not comply with the terms of a contract, they could be held liable for breach of contract and sued by the employer.

If an employer does not have a contract but rather a policy of requiring notice and an employee does not comply, an employer may not be able to sue, but it could damage the relationship with the employer and result in that employee not being considered for rehire or being given a negative reference for other employment.

A notification period benefits an employer by allowing time to recruit, hire and train a replacement before or shortly after the current employee leaves. The notice period may allow for knowledge transfer and the completion of work projects. The IT department can benefit from advance notice to avoid the duplication of client lists, intellectual property, contact lists and other data to which an employee may have had access before their departure.

Another reason notice matters is that some states govern the payout of accrued and unused leave to departing employees and may specify the time frame for paying their final paycheck. The notice period allows employers time to pay accurately and timely.

There may also be terms or conditions in a contract or policy about how employers must communicate resignations. Most employers request a letter of resignation to prove that an employee resigned and was not terminated.

On a personal level, giving notice is a common courtesy. Resigning without notice hurts your employer, but your former colleagues feel the impact the most. They are likely responsible for picking up the slack or are forced to figure out the nuances in your work you know intimately. Should you remain in the industry or field, they may also be the ones who refer, hire and promote you in the future. Burning bridges often comes back to bite you. Also, if I were your new employer, I would be mindful of how you treated your previous employer, knowing I could be next.

Ultimately, how you leave an organization reflects on your professional and personal reputation. Providing a resignation letter and a notice period is an act of respect for the process, your colleagues and yourself.


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