Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 741–761 | Cite as

“Just a Little Respect”: Effects of a Layoff Agent’s Actions on Employees’ Reactions to a Dismissal Notification Meeting

  • Manuela RichterEmail author
  • Cornelius J. König
  • Marlene Geiger
  • Svenja Schieren
  • Jan Lothschütz
  • Yannik Zobel
Original Paper


A layoff is a threatening yet common event which employees might face at some point in their working lives. In two scenario-based experiments (total N = 344), we investigated which actions of a layoff agent (i.e., who delivers the layoff notice) during a dismissal notification meeting may contribute to laid-off employees’ fairness judgments and negative attitudes toward the employer. In general, the extent to which layoff victims were treated with respect was consistently found to increase perceptions of interpersonal and procedural fairness and to mitigate negative attitudes toward the employer. Further results showed that layoff victims preferred to be given an adequate (vs. inadequate) explanation of the reasons for the layoff and to receive notice from the direct supervisor (vs. an external consultant). Relationships between the layoff agent’s actions and layoff victims’ negative attitudes toward the employer were mediated by perceptions of procedural fairness. In addition, delegating the layoff agent’s task to an external consultant increased perceived psychological contract breach. Our findings have important implications for organizational justice research and for the managerial practice of implementing fair layoffs. In particular, small actions, such as treating employees with respect, might be of benefit both to humans and organizations.


Dismissal meeting Explanations Interactional fairness Layoff agent Personnel termination Procedural fairness Respectful treatment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

This research was not funded and the authors have no conflict of interest to declare. The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants prior to their inclusion in the studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Richter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cornelius J. König
    • 1
  • Marlene Geiger
    • 1
  • Svenja Schieren
    • 1
  • Jan Lothschütz
    • 1
  • Yannik Zobel
    • 1
  1. 1.Industrial & Organizational Psychology, Department of PsychologySaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

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