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Layoffs: Letting Them Go

More than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits during pandemic – The Washington Post

Business is tough- always has been, always will be. You have overhead, taxes, insurance, licenses, certifications, equipment, vehicles, tools, rent, product, credit limits ahhhhhhhh. The most delicate and frequently, the most crucial aspect of owning or running a business is people. People are the essence of any company that isn’t a one-man show. We rely on our peeps to keep things going, balance the books, deal with clients and customers, do the manual labor, close the deals….MAKE US MONEY. Layoffs.

Layoffs: Letting Them Go, Columnist Jules Johnson

I once heard a supervisor terminate a co-worker by stating “Got a coffee cup? Get it and get the F**k out!” – Rudy Stankowitz, Aquatic Consultant & Educator

What happens if, for some reason, they aren’t making us money? This could be for a variety of reasons, but typically it falls into 3 categories:

  1. Business is too slow
  2. Performance Issues
  3. Theft

And now, with the changing world, we will have to consider catastrophic events such COVID-19

“We are all going to be forced to lay people off [at some point or another] ,” confides Mark Thompson of Absolute Pool & Spa Care in Atlanta, GA. [Especially] while our business is suffering dramatically.”

If theft is the cause, you probably don’t really care about the quality of your termination. If your employee falls into the other 2 categories, you’ll want to handle it with a velvet glove. Not just so you don’t feel like a jerkwad, but you also wish to avoid any wrongful termination suits, if possible.

This will be an emotional experience. It may even get aggressive.

. “I have had someone try to fight me before.” warns Josh Low of Sandy’s Pool Service, Powell, Ohio, “Had it just been me at the meeting I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have thrown punches.”.

Layoffs can often be emotional

Regardless of the reason, you’ll want to be prepared. Here are some best practices for laying off or terminating an employee.

Don’t wing it! Make sure all of the details are ironed out.

  • Think about all factors such as time, place and method.
  • Will you need keys, codes, company cards, phones, or equipment back?
  • Think of if you will want them back.
  • Will you be offering any sort of transitional period? Severance package?
  • Are you required by law to have their final check ready?
  • Do you need to give advance notice?   In some states, if you have more than 100 employees, you may meet the qualification standards of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, a 60-day notice may be required by law.


“Be upfront and 100% honest.” , advises Jamie of Aquatic Design & Engineering in Kitchener, Ontario

Compassionate Communication

  • Mutual respect is the cornerstone of any relationship. It should have been there from the get-go with the hiring process. Don’t let it slack when you are ending things.
  • If it is not the employee’s fault, tell them so. It helps ease the blow of a challenging conversation.
  • Maintain eye contact and face them. Sit on the same side if possible to show you are sympathetic to their situation.
  • Keep your voice level and calm, even if they are interrupting you.
  • Start with a compliment. You don’t want to come in attacking. “ You have been such an integral part of this company,” for example. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, you can always just state, “You have been a loyal employee for ‘X’ amount of months/years now.”

“You may want to say you have some bad news for them, or you are sorry…”- Stephen Davis, a 40-year businessman

There may be a need for a transitional period. Especially if their position cannot be done by anyone else.

  • You may want to let the employee know that you have immediate needs and invite them to stay on for a period. Make sure you tell them you are offering this to them in the hopes that notice will make them lose their job a bit easier.
  • Let them know when you anticipate being able to bring them back.
  • You can cut hours, cut days, or just give them a final workday, if you have one in mind.
  • If you are offering any sort of severance package, make sure to fill them in on that or direct them to speak with the department or person that can.
  • Offer FMLA to them if available in your state (only if you will be hiring them back.)

“ Make sure you are honest with your employee(s). If you want to keep them long term you’ll need to be straight with them right now. That’s the most important. Tell them there is a plan for getting them back full-time-if there is one.” – Mike Mawhorter of Pilot Pool & Spa

If the employee is leaving on good terms, you want to help out in any way you can.

  • Offer any outplacement assistance you may be willing to
  • Offer to be a reference or write a letter of recommendation
  • Give their info to colleagues that may be looking or give them contact info.
  1. Keep it brief
  • Your team members will want to argue and explain, they may even beg. Deliver your news, and don’t leave a lot of dead air for conversations. Try not to get sucked into a 2-sided conversation because you won’t win
  • Thank them for their service
  • Suggest you keep in touch

Don’t sugar coat it. You will add insult to injury and give false hope.

“Giving someone false hope and uncertainty about their employment is worse than flat-out knowing you have been terminated.” – Kris Burns of Native Waterscapes in Dripping Springs, Texas.

Make sure you have done your due diligence and have documentation if you are letting them go for performance reasons if you are laying them off before laying off others. Every issue needs to be handled and documented within a day of occurrence so that you will have the details fresh. It doesn’t need to tell a story. Bullet Point it: Here is What happened, when it happened, who did it, why it was terrible, what we will do to prevent its reoccurrence, what we will do if it happens again, etc. Then have them sign it. If they refuse to sign, write the words “employee refused to sign.” You would be surprised at the sh*t that can come back and bite you right on the ass.

Similar Article: Keeping Employees Engaged 

This is never an easy task. As business owners, there is oftentimes no way around it. Make sure you are up-to-snuff on Federal Employment laws and in your State as well. We are clearly conducting business in a world that is struggling through unprecedented times. The threat of a global pandemic in a traveling world ✈ is a reality, and we need to react accordingly. Develop a plan ahead of time and pandemic or not, you’ll be in a better position when it comes time to let someone go.