Corporate Downsizing: The 5 W’s to Ease the Meeting

“You want me to do what?” This might be the first thought in the manager’s head when you ask him to terminate a team member as part of a corporate downsizing. These events can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved. When emotions are high and stress is at a max, it’s vital to equip your notifying managers with the language, tools, and support they need to deliver the separation message with compassion and sensitivity.

Do your manager – and your company – a favor by training her on the who, what, when, where, and why of corporate downsizing notification meetings.

1. Who should lead the meeting

Ideally, the separated employee’s direct manager leads the meeting. Under special circumstances, a more senior manager and/or human resources representative may also be present. But it is strongly recommended that the immediate supervisor conduct the interview alone.

2. What should be discussed

There are five key areas to cover. Additional information can be provided based on the affected employee’s response and questions, but be sure the manager discusses:
a. Business rationale for the corporate downsizing
b. Clear notification message, including effective date
c. Benefits/severance package details
d. Outplacement services
e. Structure for next steps

Try to keep the meeting to 10 – 20 minutes. Longer than 20 minutes opens up the possibility of derailing the conversation and encouraging debate. Briefer than 10 minutes might be received as callous. The actual act of notification should occur in the first five minutes, leaving time for the individual to express her feelings afterward.

3. When to hold the corporate downsizing meeting

The manager might be tempted to hold the meeting on Friday afternoon to put the pain off as long as possible and then escape into the weekend. However, Friday is the least ideal time for the separated employee. Hold the meeting on Monday or Tuesday. This gives the employee a chance to take positive steps toward launching their job search.

4. Where to hold the meeting

Privacy and confidentiality are very important, but the manager’s office is not the place to hold the meeting. Select a “neutral ground” like a conference room. This allows the manager to end the meeting by getting up and leaving after the meeting is complete – avoiding the awkwardness of a protracted conversation.

5. Why the corporate downsizing is happening

The decision to reduce staff is never taken lightly. It requires a lot of thought and analysis. The manager and the separated employee will want to know the business rationale behind the reduction. Share facts about the situation, why the corporate downsizing is happening, and how the company will move forward with the notifying manager. This will help her better community the decision to the employee.

Separation discussions are difficult but they don’t have to be debilitating. Address your manager’s needs so she can deliver the notification message without negatively affecting your company’s culture, identify, and brand. It will go a long way in minimizing stress for the entire staff on notification day.

Download IMPACT Group’s Manager Notification Checklist to prepare your team.