Delivering bad news about layoffs by any other means than face to face speech can be dangerous. I was an inspirational speaker for a franchise event where I learned that the CEO had laid people off via email only a week earlier. The crowd was still boiling with anger - and it was obvious. News, both good and bad, travels fast these days and information leaked over the Internet only increases gossip and causes fear to fester, further depleting morale and destroying trust.
Delivering a semi-motivational speech means standing up, looking everyone in the eyes and announcing what has happened and what will happen. To hide in a corporate office and send out an email notification is cowardly, and certainly not in the best interest of the organization. Management needs to stand and deliver the news or suffer the consequences.
To handle layoffs respectfully means to be accountable and take responsibility for it and this can only happen with a public speech.
Some points to consider to give a speech to announce layoffs
- Keep it upbeat
- Keep it simple
- Express regret
- Express gratitude for those leaving. You may choose to walk around the room and highlight the individual contribution of key people who will be leaving.
- Announce resources for laid off employees (i.e. help with applying for unemployment benefits, reference letters, severance packages, etc.)
- Allow coworkers time to say goodbye, if possible, without losing control of the crowd
- Show that you have done everything in your power to avoid these terminations
- Demonstrate a clear course of action
- Inspire hope for the future, if possible
- Assure the unaffected workers that they do still have a job and a future with the organization
Keep your speech overall motivational and uplifting and communicate in a straightforward and direct way. Do not try to cover things up or hide them. Be straightforward and communicate both the bad news and the good news.