Table: A Kinder, Gentler Ax

Layoffs are never easy, but there are ways to minimize the trauma

Avoid surprises

Give employees up-to-date information on the company's status and industry trends--it will reduce the shock of any layoffs.

Know your workers

Look at each one's expertise. While they may not be needed in their current jobs, their skills can often be transferred to other positions.

Make your case

Employees must see the cuts as crucial to the company's health. After the layoffs, show fiscal restraint so survivors don't feel that people are the only expendable resource.

Act quickly

Move fast after the announcement. Otherwise, you'll lose credibility with employees, productivity will be hurt, and people you want to keep may be tempted to leave.

Be respectful

Giving severance pay and outplacement for fired workers is vital to preserve morale among those who remain. Don't throw people out: Allow time for goodbyes.

Stay focused

Map out a plan to get the necessary day-to-day work done with fewer people so the company won't drift.

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