How to Win Over Your Fired or Laid Off Employees


Learn more about how to build an alumni network from a community of former employees and brand ambassadors by joining me on 1/21/13 at 11 AM PST for a webinar with RiseSmart worth 1.0 Strategic HRCI credit. Click here to learn more. 

How to Win Over Your Fired or Laid Off Employees

In my experience as an HR leader, January has always, always, always been the highest month of employee turnover whether voluntarily or involuntary. Some employees voluntarily quit for greener pastures in the new year. These companies can afford to hire these aspiring workers because of the new head count budget available for a department expanding or a division is growing.

January is Highest Month for Involuntary Termination & Firing Employees

Sadly, in the reverse, money, budget and headcount doesn’t just fall from the sky and these available opportunities often come at a cost as other departments scale back, restructure, lay off or terminate employees. January was always my highest month for involuntary turnover because managers put off firing someone over the holiday or waited until the end of the quarter to lay off a group of employees.

Laying off individual or a group of employees is never fun. In fact, it is one of the worst parts of my job in HR. I hate to be the bearer of bad news and there is nothing worse than telling a group of employees there have 30 days before their job and pay is no more. Our work self is tied to so many pieces of our lives. It pays for our home or our child’s school. Additionally, in America we often wear our job title on our sleeve so understandably loosing our job or getting laid off has an impact on our personal self as well as financially.

From Angry Ex-Employee to Brand Ambassador

When we lay off a group of employees or fire someone who is underperforming, we are rocking the very core of our lives and not typically in a very positive way. And given the growth of social media, blogging and review sites like, employees either displaced voluntarily or involuntarily can share their experiences with the masses through the Internet and technology. Whether you like it or not theses former employees are alumni and brand ambassadors either good or bad. There is no in between.

– Show Respect. This means letting go of staff privately and with dignity. Unless you are displacing a large group, personal and individual meetings are best. Do your best to avoid the conference call or group meeting. If firing an employee, have a manager box up their belongings or allow them to enter the building after hours to quietly pick up their personal items with security.

– Provide Information Packets and a RIF Kit. The news that you are being fired or laid off is quite jolting. I recommend having a packet available providing answers to frequently asked questions, information about COBRA as well as flexible spending accounts and 401(k). RIF kits are a great way to help communicate and reinforce important points in the meeting allowing for research once the reality begins to sink in for the now ex-employee. Here’s a company created RIF toolkit I recommend.

– Work with a Career Placement Service or Company. The best way to show you truly care is to offer career placement or guidance services for your former employees. If these services aren’t available to you, offer resume review services and provide a job search toolkit as a resource to aid in employees to find their next job quickly. (Click here to download an example of a 9 page job search career toolkit or just share with your displaced employees.)

– Create an Alumni Network. These company created communities often called professional employer associations consist of former employees. These communities allow for information share and career networking that continues to add value long after an employee leaves your organization. This is a great way to rehire employees and boomerang them back to you after they have gained additional experience or education.

What steps are you taking to build a rapport with employees who have recently left your organization? How are you building relationships with them as part of your long term recruiting and brand ambassador strategy?

Learn more about how to build an alumni network from a community of former employees and brand ambassadors by joining me on 1/21/13 at 11 AM PST for a webinar with RiseSmart. Click here to learn more. 

Photo Credit.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Anu Babu Kurian says

    Dear Jessica,

    Great article! I’m the Senior Editor in charge at People Matters, a magazine focused exclusively on HR. I would like to use your article in our section called “Blogosphere” with due credits and copyright information. Please let me know if you are interested.


  2. Alex says

    As long as you do it tactfully and tastefully, there’s no reason you should be made to look like the bad guy/girl imo


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