When you’ve been laid off, there is a tendency to hold it against the person who had to deliver the news. Here’s the layoff experience from the perspective of the line manager.


Those of us who have experienced a layoff freely acknowledge that it takes an emotional and financial toll. Layoffs are almost always financially motivated, yet they can feel very personal. There is also a tendency on the one who is laid off to be angry at the person who has to deliver the news.

Although it’s not what most people want to hear, the layoff process is also difficult for the manager who has to deliver the news. Not only is the process itself not pleasant, but most line managers don’t have much input into the process or even the people selected for layoff. Here’s the content of an e-mail I received from a TechRepublic member describing a layoff in his company:

My current employer is trying to make the task of deciding who to layoff as objective as possible. The process first started with an examination of all the contractors at the company. Legally and morally it is easier to end a contractor’s employment, but not every contractor was let go, it depended on their role and the impact on the business.Once it was determined that cuts to contractors were not enough, senior management and HR provided a spreadsheet with catagories to rate all employees in catagories such as time with the company, reliability and performance. The catagories were scored with a 1-10 ranking and a total score created for each employee.

Having a rational framework attempts to take the personal side out of the equation. There are always interpersonal issues between managers and employees, but for the most part they should be ignored in a rational process. Better to look at programs and the people who work on them, and determine what programs are mandatory, and what can be cut, and then look at the staffing of those programs.

My choices have been made, and I have to layoff one employee from my group. I am unhappy to do it, but I really don’t have a choice in the matter. The layoff will happen in January and until then I have to keep quiet. Of course it will make things slightly easier for the employee to have it happen in January as opposed to now, but it also means burns away at me until then.

I’ve had the experience of being laid off myself, and although it wasn’t easy, at the time I was pretty much in shock and my supervisor was clearly distressed. Now I better understand what they went through as I face my own difficult choices.

I would like to hear from other managers about how much of a role they had in staff layoffs and how they handled it.