A recruiter’s guide to downsizing – how to let people go

The decision to downsize has been made, and whether or not you are the ultimate decision maker, it is you who has to let them go.

In your mind, you may think it’s a business decision, but for the person sitting across from you, this is very personal. So don’t make it trite by telling them it’s just business, because to them, it is not.

If you lost some sleep about this the night before, you will probably do a better job at this. When you are talking to this employee, fire them like you are firing your best friend. In some way, you should be able to feel their pain and be sympathetic.

In terms of what you say, keep it short. Whether or not it has anything to do with performance, this is no time to go into that.

Perhaps they saw this coming, so it may not be as much of a surprise as you think. However, people are still shocked to actually hear it.

Make sure that what you tell them is straightforward and direct, so they understand. If you have rehearsed this well, you don’t need to do a lot of talking.

However, you need to be prepared for some kind of reaction. They may be quiet, they may be emotional or they may be angry. Try to keep the situation calm, and help them maintain as much dignity as possible.

You may want to have a counselor or HR person come in right afterwards. You can leave the room or you could escort them to another room.

During your discussion, present them with a termination letter, which outlines the terms. The terms of the termination should have been sorted out long before the meeting, and would have been discussed with the legal team.

This letter will likely require their signature, but they should not sign right away. They can take it with them and talk about the terms of the termination in the next few days with appropriate people.

At the end of the meeting, either you or the HR person can take them to their office and gather their personal things, so they can leave right away. Their office can be emptied at a later date.

If there is one word of advice – be kind. It’s never nice but you can be kind in an unkind event.

Need help reorganizing after downsizing?

Call Ambit Search at 416.703.5050 and ask for Joanne Elek, Managing Director.

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