It’s never a good thing to be let go from a job. But, believe it or not, some ways are better than others.


This is a guest post from Deb Perelman of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can read her ZDNet blog The IT Grind, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

I know what you’re probably thinking: What a ridiculous question. There is no gentle way to hand out a pink slip. There is no way to be told that “your services are no longer needed” but “here is the number to our local unemployment office” and/or “an explanation of why we won’t be offering severance packages this round” that doesn’t sting. Want to do it better? Don’t do it at all.

But, it is hard to argue that there aren’t better and worse ways to break bad news. Countless layoff horror stories abound- from IMs to being informed by security that you are just a “visitor” now and disabled network connections-suggesting that even the so-called smartest companies could use a little tutorial in how to break bad news with respect and tact.

Jason Calcanis, on the day his company, Mahalo, shed 10 percent of their staff, shared lessons he’d learned laying off employees in the past:

1. Don’t spread layoffs over multiple rounds: Rounds of layoffs is a “horrible idea”, says Calcanis, because it creates massive fear and uncertainty inside of your organization.

2. Lay people off in a group, not individually: Calcanis found that telling people one-by-one was not more humane.

3. Don’t sugarcoat the rationale: Be 100 percent honest and upfront about why you chose to keep some people and not others.

4. Cutting jobs is better than cutting salaries: Rather than angering everyone in the organization by hurting all of their bottom lines, cut a few salaries altogether and leave the people you want to keep as happy as possible.

5. Give severance even if you don’t have to, and freelancer work, where you can: Be as generous as you can be, said Calcanis, and don’t forget these people when you start hiring again.

6. Lay people off at the end of the day: No need to keep people around until the end of the day or week. When they’re done, let them leave.

7. Get over it and get back to work: The reality is, everyone else needs to get back to work.

How about you? If you’ve ever been laid off, how do you think it could have been handled better?