How to pre-empt emotional outbursts at a retrenchment exercise?

1/13/2020, By Sze-Yen Chee

Dear Yen,

I’m conducting a Retrenchment exercise in a few months' time. I’ve done this once before last year and thankfully I have not had to witness or manage an emotional Employee. But I worry that some people might get upset this time. Do you have any advice for me?



Dear Cynthia,

Receiving the news that you no longer have a job is always emotional, even if it’s not obvious in their facial expressions. It’s important to be empathetic and at the same time, factual and business-like.  

Here are 5 DOs:

1. Be compassionate and understanding. Managers should conduct the meeting with compassion and imagine themselves in the exiting staff’s shoes. They would appreciate the dignity of a respectful exit.

2. Be focused and to the point. Do not ramble. Do not make small talk. Do not digress. Keep to the script, provide all the relevant information needed and proceed to the next individual. The impacted staff is already in a state of shock and is likely unable to process any extra details. Help him or her by relaying only the facts needed for the situation at hand.

3. Listen carefully and observe keenly. During the meeting, it is both the Manager's and HR’s responsibility to listen closely to what the individual is asking and to provide the appropriate answers. It is also necessary to keenly observe the mood, especially if the employee has a history of emotional or mental stress challenges. Should something be amiss, the matter needs to be escalated as soon as possible.

4. Ensure that the meeting room is private. It would not help to have curious people looking in. Also, have a box of tissues and some water readily available.

5. Ensure the individual understands what is happening and knows the next steps. Often, this moment is a hazy one for them and they are unable to register details. An FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet with relevant information and helplines listed would be useful.

Help your exiting staff move on quickly and do engage professionals if you need help. 

All the best!