If you have to lay off an employee remotely, this is the kindest way to do it

As a former manager responsible for personnel decisions, laying people off was always the least favorite part of my job. Telling someone that they are losing their position is never fun. 

However, there are ways to make this process run smoother, especially when laying off a remote staff member. 

If you need to lay off one of your remote employees, here are three ways to make the process run as smoothly and compassionately as possible. 

1: Invite the remote employee into the office. While this won’t always be possible, studies have found that face-to-face meetings are preferred when issuing a layoff notice to a remote employee. A face-to-face meeting helps convey the seriousness of the matter and also shows respect to the employee who is being laid off by taking the time in-person rather than over the phone. 

2: If you cannot have a face-to-face meeting, use video. The second best option is to use video instead of a more impersonal voice-only telephone call. Using video conferencing helps provide more empathy for the employee than a traditional telephone call. 

“Video conferencing allows for all parties to see and understand nonverbal gestures, which is important when discussing such emotional topics as employment status,” writes SHRM. “Video conferencing or phone terminations allow the employer to convey critical information and empathy while allowing the employee to ask questions and share his or her thoughts”.

3: Proactively offer a severance package or other benefits. Rather than making the employee ask about a possible severance, be proactive and offer this information during the layoff. Doing so may help ease the burden of the layoff. 

If the layoff is because of the Coronavirus, be sure to mention that the layoff is not the employee’s fault or a reflection of his or her work. But, make it “concise and unequivocal,” Harvard Business School professor Joshua Margolis said. 

For example, “I’m sorry, but at the end of next week we are terminating your job.” Offering an “expeditious, direct message can feel cold, but it allows the other person to process what you’re saying,” he says.

Do not blame others for the layoff decision. Do not make promises that you cannot keep or make it seem like the layoff is up for discussion. Instead, be firm and direct, and answer any questions that the employee may have the best you can to help them transition out of their role. 

Also, be sure that a human resources representative is present during the meeting. They should be able to answer questions about the official last day, severance packages, benefit termination, and anything else that might be of concern to the employee. 

For remote employees who cannot come into the office, send all termination and severance paperwork overnight. Don’t make them wait.