Announcing layoffs to your team

Properly communicating a layoff at a startup is crucial to maintaining your employer branding and keeping remaining employees engaged. It's important to have a concrete communication strategy in place, act quickly, and be prepared to handle tough questions. Additionally, providing support for laid-off employees and sharing resources to help them find new work opportunities can also work in your favor for maintaining a positive employer brand.

It’s not going to be fun.

Your communication strategy

First and foremost, please ensure that the tone of your communication is appropriate. You are referring to roles, not people.

Types of communication channels at your disposal:

  • All hands meeting
  • Team meetings
  • Letters
  • Emails (and other forms of written communication)
  • 1o1


To effectively communicate with affected employees, you need to have a concrete communication strategy. The rule of thumb is to act quickly!

You don't want speculation and gossip circulating about the layoff within your team, or externally. Your timeline should be tight and well thought out. Make sure to prepare all necessary documents and resources beforehand, including legal paperwork.

Below are examples of different communication timelines::

“3-Hour Layoff” by Jesse Dwyer:

Process explained in Effective Communications During a Team Downsizing - Insight Partners:


Pyn Layoff Checklist:

[Shared] Pyn Layoff Checklist.xlsx14.9KB


Breaking the news to your team, and specifically to laid-off employees, is no small task. According to Beth Steinberg, Chief People Officer at Chime, there are two ways to approach it:

  1. The company calls an All-Hands. The CEO makes the announcement. People return to their desks and direct managers start having team and 1:1 conversations.
  2. Direct managers announce the news to their teams. The company calls an All-Hands. The CEO expounds on the news. People return to their desks to have 1:1 conversations.

Choose the one that fits your company culture best. The order doesn’t matter has much as the need for these 2 communication steps to happen in immediate succession. This will ensure that the information stays contained and it leaves no room for fear. Employees affected will no quickly that they are part of the reduction plan.

Be prepared to handle tough questions:

As the CEO, most communication will depend on you. To prepare, do not hesitate to book an OH with our media training expert!

Free Office Hour Mediatraining x Julien Cros He can help you on: preparing a TV or radio interview; making your speeches clear, meaningful and impactful and being challenged on a sensitive topic. 🕑 90min | 👉 Book a meeting here

Keeping remaining employees engaged:

After a layoff, your company's culture and team engagement may be hanging by a thread. It is important to reassure remaining employees and encourage productivity. This may require extra effort on your part.

  • Communicate on the long term vision and the reason why you made the decision to downzise the team.
  • Collaborate with your HR team to implement engagement strategies, but be mindful of the current situation and avoid appearing insensitive. If you have recently laid off employees, avoid hosting extravagant building events that may appear expensive. This could send mixed signals to your remaining employees. You can achieve this through Learning & Development actions for example. The goal is to show to you team that they are valued.

Should you communicate externally?

Once again, whether or not you should prepare for a layoff depends on your culture, the size of the layoff, and many other factors. We won’t tell you what to do.

However, it's important to prepare something so that you're not caught off guard in the scenario where you need to communicate about the layoff (for example: bad Glassdoor reviews, LinkedIn posts…).

As the CEO, you should embody this communication by working with your communication team to craft a raw and honest blog or social media post. Nothing too complicated, just something that showcases the leader you are even in difficult times. If relevant, it could include a list of the people who were unfortunately let go in order to highlight their profiles and assist them in their search for a new job.

You’ll find examples of communication here 💬Examples of Layoff Communication by startups.

You could also seek advice from a crisis management or HR communication firm.

Communication Tools & Resources