5 Ways to Put the ‘Good’ in Goodbye

My former employer, Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, used to say that every job ends sometime. Of course, she was right. And when that day comes, we all hope it will be our choice and not our employer’s. We also would like to see it coming rather than being blindsided. After all, no one starts a new job thinking someday, they will be forced to quit.

But that’s what’s happening en mass. And it’s hurting a lot of people.

The humans of our workplace have virtual whiplash, and for good reason. We moved from the Great Resignation of 2021 and 2022, during which companies couldn’t hire quickly enough and salaries were going up as quickly as housing prices, to the workplace of 2023, which has seen a series of highprofile mass layoffs, including Google, Salesforce, Disney, Twitter, and Citigroup.

Have You Ever Been Fired? I Have.

It happened decades ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. Anyone who’s ever been fired remembers what and how it happened. It’s usually not a happy story. If you doubt this, ask anyone you know. We can do better.

We all know that sometimes, company leaders must cut staff. That’s the way of business. The question, then, is: how are layoffs being communicated to staff?

Spoiler alert: Mass firings on Zoom calls are not the right way to lay off your staff. A recent headline said if companies can hire one at a time, they can “fire one at a time.” I agree.

Here Are 5 Ways to Do It Better

1. Learn from the mistakes of others.
CEO Vishal Garg of was one of the first executives to do a mass firing of 900 staffers on a Zoom call in December, 2021. Garg was soon placed on a leave of absence for mishandling the layoffs. A better way (pun intended) is to have managers meet in person or call the staffers to tell them the news personally rather than through a public humiliation.

2. Choose kindness and dignity.
Being laid off is hard enough without having a security guard stand over you while you pack up your kids’ school photos. Unless there is a real danger of someone stealing company secrets, allow employees to pack up their desks with dignity and without being made to feel like criminals.

3. Give advance notice, if possible.
I spoke with one of the workers who was fired from one of the companies above. She found out by logging on at 6 a.m. and discovering her access was denied. Her computer access had been shut down at 3 a.m. It was only after she texted her manager that she found out it was not a system error; she had been terminated. However, she had been promoted 2 months earlier and had just received a glowing performance review. You can see how this situation can make a person feel schizophrenic, causing depression, sadness, and disillusionment.

4. Give severance pay.
Money helps staff whose lives have just been suddenly turned upside down. I urge leaders to be as generous as possible. One week for every year is standard, and given the circumstances, I encourage you to choose generosity.

5. Offer expert assistance in finding new work.
The leaders who genuinely care about their staff offer paid coaching and support in finding new work, especially because there will be stiff competition among the newly laid-off staff.

The Bottom Line

Leaders may have to cut staff, but they don’t have to traumatize and humiliate the people they hired and who’ve been hardworking and loyal in the process.

My question to all leaders is: How would you feel if the person getting laid off were your daughter, son, sister, wife, or best friend? What if it were you?

I urge all leaders to choose respect and dignity when laying off staff and to put the “good” back in “goodbye.”

Bonnie Low-Kramen is the founder and CEO of Ultimate Assistant Training & Consulting. For 25 years, she worked as the personal assistant to Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis and cofounded New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA). She is also a TEDx speaker and the author of Staff Matters: People-Focused Solutions for the Ultimate New Workplace.

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