Where Retrenchment is the Last Resort, How Can You Do It with Dignity?

Retrechment Meeting

Retrenching an employee is one of the hardest tasks for a manager or HR professional.  But in these uncertain times, many companies have been forced to make redundancies.  There are broader consequences when organizations and individuals handle the termination process poorly.

Many companies have recorded positive stories of how they helped their affected employees during and after the retrenchment.  Still, there are many other negative stories as well as a few unbelievable ones of some companies with unprofessional redundancy policies, processes, and procedures.

Looking into the negative stories, the unprofessional behavior was caused by a lack of knowledge, expertise, time, and resources.  At the same time, it’s hard to switch budget and resources meant to keep your company afloat during the turmoil time to helping retrenched employees.

The article will tell you how you can help your retrenched employees during their uncertain time and how to do it with dignity.

6 Ways of Retrenching Employees with Dignity

1.    Be Prepared

The retrenchment process is easier when the company, the managers, and the HR are prepared.  Reviewing the termination process with a union representative where possible or someone well versed in employment law can be helpful.  Again, thoroughly check the affected individual’s employment contract and personal records.  This will help you avoid announcing a retrenchment to an employee during their special day.

Establish a communication strategy with ready messages for stakeholders as you prepare to announce the termination to employees, clients, and other stakeholders.  Talk to the affected employees in the presence of their boss or a union representative because an individual can become violent or sue the company because of how the meeting was conducted.

2.    Show Compassion

Retrenching a person can be pretty emotional because they have served the company loyally and established good working relationships with others.  However, terminating this employee(s) might be the last resort.  In view of that, the retrenchment meeting should be done calmly and professionally.

Loss of job can cause them to feel worthless, rejected, guilty, embarrassed, etc.  But the manager discussing this decision with the employee should try to minimize these feelings.  They should think about how they will feel if they’re the ones in their place.  The company can train managers responsible for delivering the retrenchment new to do it sensitively.  In fact, the company can have a professional career transition consultant to offer the affected individuals immediate support.

Also, give your employees a longer retrenchment notice, sometimes beyond what the law recommends.  This will give the retrenched employees more time to prepare as well as consider alternative career plans.

3.    Be Clear

No one wants to lose their job.  Because of that, employees may want to justify the reasons why the company should retain them.  In fact, they may want to discuss their past milestones, achievements, and their contribution to that.  However, explaining the organization’s efforts to manage its current financial position and business challenges can help them understand the company’s actual position.

Similarly, if retrenchment is the last resort, the managers handling the process should be focused and clear with the information they’re providing.  Indeed employees will want to seek a second chance or ask many questions even in situations where they saw it coming.  For that reason, you should be prepared with facts when approaching the affected individuals and provide succinct communication pertaining to all issues important to the employees.  Also, the letter to the retrenched employees should acknowledge their retrenchment and accurately reflect the reasons for that decision.

4.    Maintain Affected Employees’ Self-esteem

Showing a person compassion and treating them with respect and dignity can ease the situation.  It can also reduce the risk of the affected employees damaging the brand to its clients, suppliers, or shareholders.  Managers can do that by being empathetic but not sympathetic, actively listening to the affected employees’ concerns, etc.

This is important during a retrenchment process because even though the affected employees understand that their loss of employment is not because of their performance but the present economic situation, it can be hard not to take it personally.  Losing a steady salary when there are a lot of pressures in modern life can be devastating and can affect a person’s mental state.

However, an employer can help their employees maintain their self-esteem and dignity by looking at each stage of the retrenchment process and finding ways to help them transition to the next stage of their career.  Indeed, people tend to make bad decisions when they’re in a poor mental state, which can negatively impact their future.  Helping your retrenched employees remain in a positive mental state can help them make good decisions during a job loss.

5.    Provide Retrenchment Benefit

An employer should provide the affected employees with their retrenchment benefits as soon as possible.  But this depends on the company’s financial circumstances at the point in time of the retrenchment.

Even so, a reasonable sum should be provided to the retrenched individuals to enable them to move on and pay their bills as they look for new employment opportunities.  The employment law requires employees who have served the company for over two years to receive retrenchment benefits.  Those with less than two years of service can receive an ex-gratia payment.  An employer can ensure equality across various batches of employees to avoid discrimination complaints.

6.    Offer Career Transition

The affected employees would want answers on what led to their retrenchment.  They want to know why their roles are being made redundant even when the company seems to be sinking.  Offering career transition support or other support services can help the retrenched employees transition positively to the next phase of their career.

Organizing job search workshops can support your affected employees.  This gives the retrenched employees a better chance of succeeding in their job search.  Internal or external expertise in your network can help the company run the workshop on job searching for your retrenched employees.  Better still, the company can hire a career coach to help them in their career transition.  Such support will make your former employees feel appreciated and valued.  It can also motivate them to serve as your brand ambassador and consultants in the future.

Another cost-effective way is to use the company’s network to refer employees.  A personal recommendation or introduction can help the affected employees get new roles as soon as possible.  The senior management team can refer the retrenched employees to their strong network based on their skills, specialization, experience, etc.  Recruitment agencies are also interested in getting referrals of top candidates.  So the employer can approach a few recruitment agencies or headhunters and recommend their retrenched employees.  It can also be good if all the retrenched employees get strong, positive reference checks whenever possible.

Therefore an employer should plan ahead and provide guidance to assist employees in having a smooth transition.


The article has provided you with 6 ways to help your retrenched employees transition to the next stage of their career after a retrenchment.  Well-prepared managers are able to deliver the retrenchment news more empathically than sympathetically.  They are able to give clear information about the present status of the company and why retrenchment was imminent.  Showing employees compassion can help minimize feelings such as guilt and embarrassment and help them maintain their self-esteem and dignity.

The company should release the retrenchment benefits as early as possible and offer career transition.  Recommending your employees to your network can help them get employment as soon as possible.  It will encourage them to serve as your brand ambassador out there and avoid lawsuits at a time when the company is facing financial challenges.

We would like to hear your experience in dealing with a redundancy meeting.  Was it dignified or undignified?


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