Reduction in Force Are Always Painful – Here’s How You Can Communicate Them Compassionately

Multiple corporations in the USA and world-over are drastically reducing their workforce as part of their restructuring efforts to better cope with the economic slump, growing inflation, and global uncertainties. According to Trading Economics, US-based employers announced 33,843 job cuts in October of 2022, a 13% increase from the 29,989 cuts in September.

Layoffs may be the need of the hour, but they don’t have to come at the cost of fundamental humane values. You can reduce the workforce and be considerate. It may get awkward, but the least you can do is afford your outgoing staff enough dignity. Believe it or not, there is a civilized way to let go of your workers, and that too without inviting any backlash and resentment. Let’s dive into it.

What is a Reduction in Force (RIF)?

A Reduction in Force (RIF) refers to a situation in the corporate when employees are laid off due to budgetary reasons, workforce planning initiatives, position redundancy, overstaffing, or other events. In the current climate, corporations are going down this route to save and sustain their business from plummeting revenues and cash flow.

Some consider this a cooling period or churning the system before employees are rehired in bulk. However, today the truth remains that mass layoffs are happening across different verticals, business types, and regions in almost all functions. Marquee behemoths like Twitter, Facebook, Stripe, and Amazon have handed employees pink slips and even implemented a hiring freeze.

Why are companies gravitating toward a Reduction in Force (RIF)?


• Growing economic challenges – weakened earnings lead to declining revenue
• Disruptive, constrained, and unpredictable supply chain
• Trigger incremental cost savings to save and sustain operations
• Accelerate layoffs to avoid paying stock grants and bonuses
• Stiff competition from budgeted mid-size companies
• Prioritizing employees and diversifying investments in emerging technologies
• Unable to immediately tap and nourish newer income sources
• Embracing automation, AI, and ML for employees engaged in low-value tasks
• Resetting employee count post the pandemic hiring frenzy due to subsiding internet activity
• Capitalizing on the layoff season to fire a few amidst the chaos and go unnoticed

How to Prepare for a Reduction in Force (RIF)?

Communication and Offboarding process: Keep the offboarding process as frictionless as possible. Communicate with those laid-off and the ones who will be handling these sessions on your behalf. Give out the overall agenda of the farewell session, activities planned for the day, and others pointers to keep the discussion cordial and systematic. Lay the groundwork of what to expect, a nutshell of the reasons, and what will come out of it. Early notice helps prepare all the resources and brings them to the same plain. Avoid hints, insinuations, or any dialogue that an employee can potentially misconstrue. Keep it succinct and forthright.

Adequate Coaching for the Managers: Coming face-to-face with distressed and unhappy terminated workers is challenging. Make sure the managers are prepared to approach this correctly. Give them a brief, go over potential arguments, etiquette train them, and ask them to stick to the professional protocol. Make sure they go over these instructions, practice and memorize them, and keep some notes to refer to on the day. The more insight they have about RIF reasons, the smoother the process will go. Don’t go in unplanned and try to wing it at the last moment.

Address the Remaining Workers: Bulk layoffs create uncertainty in the office. The remaining workers might think they could find themselves on the chopping block. Call a meeting to address their concerns individually. You don’t want the rest of the workers to operate in an anxious state that hampers their productivity and ruins your work. HR professionals need to get started right away. Even the slightest delay will result in rumor-mongering spreading like wildfire and escalating the already tense atmosphere. Involve them in your future plans and show them the long-term outlook/initiatives to reassure and reinforce their confidence and restore that positivity in the office.

Balance and Realigning Processes: Realign job responsibilities and transfer the terminated employee’s short-term duties to a coworker. Work out how you wish to distribute the work. You don’t want to overload work on the current employees, as they may have their own duties. Plus, they aren’t in the best of moods. Talk to them, keep the managers in the loop, and conceive a strategy to divide the projects. Don’t leave any loose ends – all the systems, departments, projects, and processes must have a resource working on them.

How to Approach a Reduction in Force (RIF) with Compassion – Best Practices

Honesty and Clarity: Be straightforward with the candidate. Let them know the specific reasons that led to their termination. If the economic burden has led to their layoff, then lay it like it is on the table – your businesses’ finances were off and the numbers were plummeting weekly. In this scenario, one of the cost-cutting measures was laying off employees. Have compelling reasons, exhibit openness, and be crystal-clear to help them understand why these actions were necessary. If done right, they might even reconsider joining your Enterprise.

Show Humility and Dignity: Treat the affected employees with compassion and respect. It is only appropriate that the ousted employees are awarded their fair share of honor for their valuable service. These sensitive moments deserve more empathy that goes above and beyond a simple formality. Don’t demean, judge, or criticize them and try as much to execute these processes with care. Remember, this is the last impression they’ll leave with. Show concern, listen to them, and answer their questions – this won’t be therapeutic but may soften the blow at this critical juncture.

Offer Transition Support: Offer a severance package to the employees. Make sure the compensation aligns with their time and effort in the organization. Check their seniority level and offer rewards that cover at least a month of their salary, bonus, and other benefits. This ensures they have enough funds for the coming months and won’t fall into hard times while looking for the next job. Offer resume reviews, connect them with an outplacement firm, and map them with regional vacancies. Plus, give meaningful career coaching tips and get them a parting gift as a token of appreciation.

Follow-Up and Keep in Touch: Keep the communication lines open. Termination shouldn’t have to mean loss of contact. Reach out to them after a while to check what they’ve been up to. Ask how they’ve fared in their job-hunting journey and convey that they can be rehired to address future priorities. Open and periodic communication shows the humane side and ensures these terminated employees don’t bear any grudge or bitterness.


A Reduction in Force is a difficult time for any organization. The layoffs are necessary, and there is no easy way around it. Go through with it, but do so without being too harsh or compromising values. A sensitive, tolerant, and civilized Reduction in Force (RIF) will not anger the terminated employees and leave a less negative impression on your business. If your layoffs come due to performance issues or lack of skills, turn to the qualified, competent, and experienced pros in BorderlessMind. We’ll support your goals and deliver tangible results to help sustain and scale your organizational operations.

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