No one likes to give bad news, especially to employees. When business is down, it is often necessary to lay people off or reduce hours. These messages are particularly difficult to write in a letter because it may seem that no matter how you state the facts, the recipients will be angry and upset. Fortunately, with some planning you can write a letter that lets the employees down easy and helps them to understand the difficult nature of your decision to reduce their hours.
Set Up the Letter
Type the date. Skip a space. If you are personalizing a letter to each individual employee, use the mail merge function in your word processing program to add the names and addresses. Alternately, you may omit the inside address entirely and write a generic letter if you simply have too many employees to make personalized copies.
Address the Letter
Open the letter by typing "Dear (Insert employee name)" followed by a colon. If you are writing a general letter, type "Dear Valued Employee" followed by a colon.
Explain the Situation
Start the letter by providing background. Explain why the company is losing money and what you have tried to do thus far to increase profits. Write in clear language but in enough detail so that the employees understand that the company is going through tough times. Do not mention the reduced hours in the first paragraph because the employees will probably just stop reading and you will lose the opportunity to explain the situation or to try to retain their goodwill.
Deliver the Bad News
Explain the reduction in hours in the second paragraph. Be specific. How many hours can the workers expect to lose each week? When will they return to their normal schedule, if applicable? The employees will have a lot of questions and addressing them now will prevent confusion and telephone calls to the office.
Offer Good News
Emphasize the good news, if any. For example, if you are reducing hours to avoid laying anyone off, state that. Even if the good news is relatively minor, it will help the employee to feel that you have their best interests at heart.
Close it Out
Give action information in the last paragraph. If the employees need to do anything such as fill out additional paperwork, let them know. Thank them for bearing with you in this difficult process. Close the letter by typing "Sincerely," and skipping three line spaces. Type your full name and title. Print the letter and sign the letter above your typed name.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.