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What to Say in a Layoff Meeting: Common Misconceptions

February 22, 2017 by Raymond Lee

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Do you ever wonder what to say in a layoff meeting? Even the best-trained HR professionals sometimes get stumped during these notification meetings. In high stakes situations, it is easy to forget your training about what to say in a layoff meeting. For more training, download our free layoff script here.


If you have never received a layoff notification before, it is difficult to know exactly how you would want to be notified. In fact, it is hard to agree that there is a standardized way to be notified in the first place! (Who really wants to get laid off?)

Download our Layoff Script!

While there may not be a way to lay off employees that people like, there are definitely things you can avoid that people don’t like. These items are the common misconceptions about what to say in a layoff meeting.

Common Misconceptions About What to Say in a Layoff Meeting

1) It’s not you it’s me.

However true this might be, don’t be tongue and cheek with those getting layoff notifications. The over simplification of explanations can seem demeaning, so we wouldn’t recommend including it  in your “what to say in a layoff meeting” arsenal. Be as transparent as possible, and give the full explanation you would want if the roles were reversed. Address different ways to approach the reasoning of the event in your layoff plan template.

2) If you act nice, they will be nice.

This will be true for some of the people that get notifications from you. However, not all people are the same! Thus, you can’t expect everyone to act nicely towards you. Layoffs can seriously detriment someone’s life due to lack of pay, healthcare, etc. When thinking about what to say in a layoff meeting, make sure that you take this into account. Have a plan ahead of time on how to respond to negative comments, such as “I understand and feel empathy for you, this is a horrible situation.”

3) Maybe you’ll find a better opportunity elsewhere?

Receiving a layoff can seriously shake someone’s confidence. If you are wondering what to say in a layoff meeting, this is one of the last places for comments that aren’t wholeheartedly supportive of a person’s future. If you aren’t sure if the person will find another job, or if they will get a better opportunity, don’t lie to them in a way that shows your insincerity.

4) You should stick to script

If your company has provided you strict guidelines on what to say in a layoff meeting (or what not to say), make sure that you follow those. However, if you have only been given a few guidelines, you can see what makes sense in the moment. Sticking so closely to a script can seem impersonal or even rude to those receiving the notification as it makes them feel like just another checked box. If you feel like it’s appropriate to go off script to show empathy, trust your gut.

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee is the President of Careerminds, a global outplacement company based in Wilmington, Delaware. He has over 20 years of human resource, outplacement, and career consulting experience. He has his bachelor’s in psychology and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. He is active in SHRM and ATD. Raymond’s been featured on SiriusXM Business Radio, CareerTalk, and the Wall Street Journal and he’s published a book titled, Clocking Out: A Stress-Free Guide to Career Transitions.

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