Your company has been going through tough times, and the message has come down from the top that you must let some of your staff go. Afraid to confront them directly (you don't want to deal with the anger or tears that might come up), you deliver the message via e-mail, rationalizing that people would want to hear the news privately anyway. 
This is the worst possible way to deliver bad news - especially if you have to lay off valued employees. It's not only cowardly, but it will also invite more resentment from your staff. 
A better approach is to deliver the news face to face. Set aside plenty of time to meet with each of the people you must let go. Prepare yourself in advance by going back to their personnel files and making a list of their accomplishments and commendations. 
When you deliver the news, thank each employee for his service and make specific references to his contributions to the company during his tenure there. 
Then offer to write a glowing message of recommendation.This way, the employee will feel that his work has been valued and that the downsizing was economically-motivated, and not a reflection on his performance.
Executive- Boo-Boss By Letitia Baldrige
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