Why we do the things we do: A discussion and analysis of determinants of just treatment in layoff implementation decisions

Stephen W. Gilliland, Donald H. Schepers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We present a model to explain the variation that exists in how individuals are treated (e.g., notice and explanation provided) during corporate layoffs. Propensity to treat individuals justly and costs and constraints that limit just treatment in a layoff situation are discussed at the organizational and managerial levels. A survey of human resource (HR) managers (n = 543) was used to examine predictors of layoff informational justice (e.g., advanced notice, method of informing, and amount of information) and interpersonal justice (e.g., manager demeanor, concerns for sabotage, and escorting layoff victims off the premises). Responses demonstrated more justice in the implementation of layoffs than is suggested from anecdotal "downsizing horror stories" found in the popular press. Informational justice dimensions were predicted by both organizational and managerial factors. For example, less advanced notice was provided when the reason for the layoff was exogenous, such as an economic downturn, then when it was endogenous, such as an organizational restructuring. Additionally, although many companies used individual meetings when informing victims of a layoff, group notification was used more as the size of the layoff increased. There was also much variation in layoff implementation that was not readily explainable by organizational and managerial factors, particularly with regard to interpersonal justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-83
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Resource Management Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributive justice
  • Informational justice
  • Interpersonal justice
  • Layoff implementation decisions
  • Procedural justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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