Office Politics 101: I have to lay someone off!

Do nothing until you have investigated the entire matter by speaking with your manager and the HR department.

Q: My divisional manager has asked me to lay off an employee as our company’s sales and profits have been lower than expected. I think everyone in the department is valuable, so I don’t know what to do. It seems unfair. Your suggestions?

A: Layoffs can sometimes be a reality for many companies, especially if there are seasonal cycles or unanticipated issues, such as increased competition or declining markets.

Unfortunately, however, layoffs occasionally may be an over-simplistic response to financial pressures. Management might see employees as a significant expense, so layoffs are attractive for a quick fix.

The implementation of layoffs — and the communication with selected employees — is delegated to supervisors (like you) and management, in many cases, is shielded from the resulting tension and despondency.

Apart from the obvious requirement to have work distributed to others, morale can also suffer as employees — especially those performing similar functions —  may believe they also could be vulnerable.

(I will assume you do not work in a unionized office as the collective agreement would govern the layoff process and you would be obliged to follow a set of prescribed procedures.)

I’d recommend you do nothing until you have investigated the entire matter by speaking with your manager, the HR department — if you have one — and even through informal conversation with colleagues.

You may learn your department has been selected arbitrarily to be downsized or perhaps someone has recommended you because you have a nice personality and won’t be expected to protest.

On the assumption your departmental layoff is one of many company-wide you can still make a case for retaining everyone. Prepare a report explaining why a layoff would not be in the best interests of the company and submit it to your boss as soon as possible.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, you should now consider the reality of the requested layoff which will require sensitivity and tact.  Ideally, it may be best to select the most junior employee although this may not be practical.

Ensure you have all the necessary HR documents and arrange a private meeting with the employee you’ve selected.  Be firm and do not indicate you are willing to negotiate by reducing his or her pay or offering a reduced workweek, for example.

Laying off a valued employee will be stressful for you; it will, however, be even more stressful for the employee; Your clear explanation of the situation and the fact the decision is in no way related to his or her performance will go a long way in providing emotional comfort at this time.

Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to






Just Posted

Finalists named for Alberni Valley Community Excellence Awards

Chamber of Commerce has named almost 40 finalists

Fun had by all at the Rock and Gem Show

Alberni Valley Rock and Gem Club hosts largest event so far

Young Nuu-chah-nulth boy remembered by his big, beautiful smile

A six-year-old boy died in a Port Alberni home on March 13

Huu-ay-aht mother reunited with newborn daughter after court case

Mother and child will reside in Port Alberni with supervision and support

Gord Johns calls on Liberal government to act on unfair newsprint tariffs

U.S. anti-dumping tariff could have “devastating impact” on Island communities

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

Nanaimo company awarded $33-million Site C contract

F&M Installations Ltd. will build substation for B.C. Hydro megaproject

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

Most Read