How to tell someone they have been made redundant

Redundancy can be handled in a positive way

There is a consistent theme that comes up every time redundancies (job losses) are announced are announced in the media. ‘We don’t know what’s going on’ , ‘ I found out through a friend’. We know the media need a headline, and behind the scenes the company probably has done a bit of 'communication’. But often, it’s not about the company. It’s about how line managers have handled the situation.

Listening to endless uncomfortable stories about how people were briefed when I work with people who have been made redundant shows there is a real need for support. I’ve been made redundant twice myself, once was actually a pretty smooth experience albeit not a situation I wanted to be in. The other was almost exactly like this - “here’s your tea and by the way, you haven’t got a job anymore” I’ve also had to advise people that they have been made redundant while working in my role as an HR Manager and supporting major restructuring and site closures. I really can empathise and understand that on both sides, the situation is challenging and pressured.

It’s often forgotten that even if they are not directly affected, the front line supervisors and line managers need as much support as the people affected. If this support is in place up front, then the experience is better for everyone involved.

Here is a guide for managers to help brief their teams.

If you feel like you want more support, let me know how I can help you - you can email me here

How to tell someone that they have been made redundant

It is a nervous time for you. You’ve probably been working on this restructure for a while, and now you have to go and brief the news and are about to change someone’s life. Put some time in to do your plan and prep, and think about how you would like to be treated if it was you.

How you brief someone is a reflection on you and how you treat people. You might just be surviving yourself, you might feel scared for your own job, you might be worried about your future, you might not feel good enough or confident enough to do a good briefing. But today is not about you. It’s about the other person / people involved. Try to put yourself to one side and help someone else today. Everyone will feel better for it.


1.    Create time for planning and preparation

You are about to change someone’s life, put some time in to think about the sequence of your message, what support you’ll need and what you need to keep it simple & effective.

2.    Don’t put a ‘fake’ meeting in the diary

When you plan in your briefing, be sensitive, don’t make up a reason, use a 121 or catch up. Where possible plan two meetings. A phone call to talk about broader changes happening in the business and how people are affected, and a face to face meeting to talk through it in detail.

3.    Be clear on the sequencing, your part in the organisation announcement and how your team are affected

Think about everyone who is involved in the changes, those directly affected and those indirectly affected. You need to manage the message so it gets to people at the right time, in the right way.

Your aim is to brief everybody so that people affected feel like they understand and feel supported, and people who aren’t affected understand and can support.

Your other aim is to not fuel gossip and make sure Sarah in Finance doesn’t tell everyone first because she saw it on the meeting room booking system.

4.    Use company briefing packs to help you deliver the message, but don’t just read off a briefing sheet

If you have been provided with a briefing sheet, use it but remember you are briefing a human. You are a human. Be a human.

5.    Get familiar with the message and keep it simple

Keep it very simple and concise (you can answer any other questions). Put a lot of work into making the briefing simple. It may be a complex situation but the more information you share, the more overwhelm you are creating.

  • Business rationale, organisation changes

  • How they are affected

  • What happens next

  • Any questions

6.    Be kind

Being professional is not about being hard, cold and uncaring. You may also be feeling nervous yourself but you need to find your compassion and empathy so you can support the individual. Kindness costs nothing but is worth everything.

7.    Plan in time for questions, support & follow up

Whether you are briefing a team or individuals leave time for questions and listening. Be honest and if you don’t know the answers say you’ll find out; don’t provide false hope or dodge the truth to make it an easier brief for you.   Don’t feel like you need to talk or justify any further after the briefing. You just need to listen. People may be in shock and need time to process.

8.    Don’t hide

Send a follow up message to your team. Offer an open door if anyone has questions. It’s ok if people are angry, upset, frustrated, confused. That’s perfectly normal; you can help by listening and creating support after you’ve briefed them.

9.    Plan in support for you

If you are the direct line manager briefing your team think about a support network for you and who you can ask for help if needed. If you have an HR department, or are getting HR support externally; this should be in place but check before you start briefing so you know what to do if things don’t go to plan, or you need more help.

10. Make sure you have business / professional support in place before you brief

Your manager briefing pack (if you have one) should include support and further help for people. If not ask your HR team for more information, there might be outplacement support, in-house counselling / team support.

Redundancy has a lot of legal legislation around it and the business will have a formal way of people appealing, raising questions or questions around the redundancy process. You need to direct all formal correspondence through the formal processes so that individual get clear, consistent advice.

If you want more support to help you handle change and redundancies in your business drop me a note on I collaborate with Another Door to provide bespoke redundancy support and outplacement for all affected by redundancy and can tailor a support package to your specific needs and budget from pre-redundancy communications through to personal support for those leaving your business. Find out more here: