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The Dos and Don'ts of Downsizing
Peter K. Studner


Downsizings, unfortunate as they may be, have become a way of life in the business world. Companies faced with reduced sales and/or profits need to cut back on expenses to survive. Oftentimes, this means a reduction in staff. To alleviate the pain of a downsizing, outplacement assistance has also gained popularity to help leaving employees. The cost for such assistance is minimal and the benefits to both the employer and the exiting employee can be significant. Here are some items that any employer contemplating a downsizing should consider:

Before the downsizing

Know who is affected and have full details of each person’s separation conditions (dates, severance package, etc.)
Organize the announcement so that everyone is notified the same day. This will keep rumors, fear, speculation and gossip to a minimum.
Provide the company’s reasons for the downsizing and criteria for selecting affected people.
Prepare an interview schedule that will cover all affected people and give them a chance to discuss their feelings with an HR representative.
Organize in advance any outplacement benefits. Have a notice prepared (verbally given dates will not be remembered). If outplacement will take place after the person has left the company, schedule someone to call and remind each when and where outplacement takes place.
Indicate when and where they will receive their final exit papers (usually with any exit interview).

During “The Notice”

Be compassionate. For many, the end of a career at your company is more than leaving just a job.
Listen carefully to any comments by the affected person.
Questions that cannot be answered on the spot should be noted. Make sure to follow-up with a reply at a later date.
Tell them what the company is prepared to do to help them through the transition with a severance package, outplacement.
Outplacement needs to be sold (even though it is free to the leaving employee). We suggest a handout. Discuss the benefits of the outplacement program.
If there are jobs to be obtained elsewhere in the company, be prepared to explain how they can be obtained. However, do not give false hopes. Encourage a general job search even while searching within the company.

Remember, it is not a shame or loss of face to be caught in a downsizing. Unfortunately, this is commonplace today and everyone understands because it could happen to them.

Be limited in your advice. Urge that the person attend whatever outplacement assistance is being offered. Their job-search questions should be answered by professionals. It is always better to attend outplacement counseling before the job search.

Preserve dignity. Unless there are exceptional reasons, it is always better to let a leaving employee say good-bye to his/her fellow colleagues.

The good news: Even in today’s difficult times, alert and earnest candidates get jobs.


Peter K. Studner is a career counselor, former chief executive of international companies. He is the author of the award-winning manual, Super Job Search, published by Jamenair Ltd, now in its third edition with more than 300,000 copies sold. Studner is president of Peter K. Studner Associates, Inc., an outplacement firm located in California. For additional vital job-search resources, consult:
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