7 steps for making IT layoffs as painless as possible

It's the downside of any IT leader's job: telling skilled, productive staff members their services are no longer required. Here's how to make an unpleasant task somewhat less disagreeable.

7 steps for making IT layoffs as painless as possible
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When layoffs become necessary due to poor market conditions, increased competition, overly optimistic planning or any other reason, it's often left to IT leaders to make the tough decisions and to deliver the bad news to the team. Yet before deciding whom to let go, who needs to stay and how to minimize the impact on essential IT operations and services, it's important to approach the assignment like any other major project. What's needed is a plan that defines goals, sets a timeline, minimizes disruption and anticipates potential problems.

The following seven steps provide an organized path to effective staff reduction with minimal pain and confusion.

1. Confer and plan

To reduce the possibility of making ill-informed and potentially costly mistakes, Alan Zucker, founding principal of IT advisory and training firm Project Management Essentials, advises working closely with the enterprise's human resources and legal departments.

"Layoffs are governed by both local and federal regulations," he explains. "Large corporations generally have well-established procedures to insulate themselves from legal actions from the impacted employees." While following HR and legal requirements can be frustrating at times, these rules exist to protect the enterprise and its leaders from costly lawsuits and fines.

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