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Are There Kinder Ways to Lay People Off?

“For some, the ax comes in the form of a summons to a conference room with a supervisor and a staffer from HR. For others, the blow simply lands in their email inbox like a kick in the gut. Still others are told in groups to stay home Monday morning, and then asked to call in to learn whether they still have their jobs,” according to Knowledge@Wharton.

“Layoffs and firings are never easy on their targets, but the swing of the ax has become particularly brutal and messy in an era when employers are trying to balance a host of competing concerns. Will terminated employees steal proprietary data on their way out the door? Are there legal risks, or even physical dangers? And how much will being “nicer” affect the bottom line?”

“But the question that isn’t asked often enough is this: Is there a way to send workers packing with their dignity intact while mitigating collateral damage to the remaining workers? Many management experts say yes — more humane methods of letting people go do exist — yet they’re not used nearly often enough.”


“Years ago, many employers routinely used more humane methods when easing employees out the door, but these practices were often stipulated by union contracts, and unions have long been in decline. Buyouts, for example, can soften the blow, and they’re still used in some industries. Employees are typically offered several months’ pay plus continuing benefits, based on their length of service. In some cases, employers are given the right to decline an employee’s buyout application, giving the company a chance to hand-pick who they want to see stay or go.”

The Wall Street Journal has a step-by-step guide to layoffs featuring how-tos, stories and video interviews with CEOs.