There is a right way to announce a reduction in force to employees. Going around the office muttering phrases such as “do your work while you still can” or “it doesn’t matter, we’ll be gone in a few weeks anyway” under your breath isn’t it. In the real world, a company planning a RIF should communicate the bad news in a planned, organized, and preferably, written communication. The announcement should explain what is going to happen, when it will happen, who it will impact, and why it is necessary.
And for the love of God, please don’t tell your 40-plus-year-old manager that the company is centering the restructuring around his much younger counterpart who is believed to have more “talent” (okay, I don’t know whether Michael is, in fact, over 40 but, according to Wikipedia, Steve Carell is). RIFs are rife with age discrimination claims – class action or otherwise. Failure to control the office rumor mill will only add fuel to that fire. In the absence of effective communication from the company, employees tend to fill in the gaps themselves. By the time those “gap fillers” pass through the office, the company’s initial message has been wholly distorted, if not lost entirely. Unfortunately, the “gap fillers” also tend to show up in litigation where (over my strenuous objection) the employee calls them “evidence.”