IT Employment

The 10 worst things about getting laid off

No matter what the circumstances are, getting laid off can knock you for a loop. If you've been through it, you'll probably recognize some of these side effects.

Layoffs are an ugly business. You can bring in consultants and other HR-type experts and subscribe to all the best practices, but you're just dressing up a pig.

I was laid off once, about 15 years ago. Well, sort of. The truth is that it was just a convenient way for the company's CEO to fire me. I didn't blame him, either; I wanted out as much as he wanted me out. I guess you could call it a no-fault termination.

Did I mention that the company eventually went under? Yeah, that was nice. Good thing I wasn't vindictive about getting fired ... I mean laid off.

Anyway, there's a lot to deal with when you're laid off and none of it's good. In my experience, here are the 10 worst things about getting laid off.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Having to act cool when you've just been kicked in the teeth by a boss you can't stand and have no respect for. The injustice of it all.

2: You can goof off at work and, if you're good at it, nobody's the wiser. At home, it's close quarters. You've really got to put some effort into screwing off. It's exhausting.

3: For some poor unfortunates, work is actually a sanctuary from the stresses of home life. No kidding.

4: Dealing with rejection. That's right, they might call it a layoff, but you feel rejected, just the same. After all, they canned you, not the guy in the cubicle next door. It's just like divorce. They might call it no-fault, but you know you did something to deserve it.

5: Having to look for a job after being rejected. Let's face it, the only thing worse than looking for a job is trying to get a date. And just like dating, it's so much worse right after you've been dumped.

6: Sure, all that free time is fun at first. But even video games get boring after a while. (They do, don't they?) Then you wake up one day and realize you're almost out of cash. Panic time!

7: Having to use your old company as a reference, but you're not sure what they'll say. Also digging up the old references that got you the job you were laid off from and having to tell them the whole gory story.

8: It's hard to feel sexy after you've been canned. Hey, I'm not kidding. This goes for guys, too. Come on, admit it; you know you feel like less of a man. Of course you can go for pity, but you feel dirty afterward.

9: If you're an executive, you've got to go right into negotiating mode or lose the opportunity. One minute you're getting a Dear John speech, the next minute you're wheeling and dealing like it's a Monopoly game: "How about you keep the stock options and up the cash payout?"

10: Having to explain what happened, over and over and over again, in every interview you have for the rest of your freakin' life.

Of course, companies have their own perspectives about downsizing in a recession, and that's probably as it should be. Still, it's a real horror show when it happens to you.

Your turn

Got any good layoff stories? Share them in the discussion below.

30 comments
Seaweedd
Seaweedd

I?ve been made redundant, as we call it here, several times in my working life. Most I?ve come out of well, one I came out of badly and took a long time to get back into work. I remember a time when I had no idea where the money for the next bill was coming from. But the sun?s shining, I know my kids love me, the balls are running well on the fairways, and when you?re down there?s only one way to go. So if you have a job, don?t be complacent, get as much good experience as you can and get a few good certs behind you. If you?re out of work use it as an opportunity to update your skill set and pass a few exams. Whenever I?ve had change forced upon me it?s always turned out for the better in the long run. Being out of work can lead to a long downward spiral if you let it. So give yourself a reason to get up in the morning, be aggressive in your search for work, and most of all set yourself a target, work towards it, and don?t let anything distract you.

Zeppo9191
Zeppo9191

I'm facing a layoff soon - my entire team is to be disbanded later this year. It'll be my second time around this circus ring. Last time, it was a 'shotgun' method - nobody knew who would be affected. Believe me, this method is far better on the psyche - the uncertainty of wondering whether you'll be affected is murder. However, after the last layoff, having stayed in touch with those who were not affected, I felt far more stable than those 'left behind'. They continued to wonder 'if, when', while I already knew my fate, and was dealing with it full-time. Good luck to all those in this situation!

Justin James
Justin James

Wow, you and I come from different worlds. In my world, when I lost a job ages ago, within two months I almost lost my car, I had to move home to live on my mother's glassed in porch 400 miles away from any of my friends, and it took me 4 years to acheive the same income level as before. I spent FOUR YEARS either living at my mom's house, and when I finally got out of there, all I could afford was a tiny two room (not two bedroom, two room) apartment. It set my career back 5+ years easily. Once I was forced to accept a low end job because my unemployment was running out, I struggled to regain a career as a programmer, and I went from mid-level to nearly entry level simply because I wasn't programming professionally. The fact that you omitted important things like "can't pay bills" and "skill set rapidly deteriorates" in favor of "funny" items like how hard it is to goof off is a bit interesting. J.Ja

mic1235
mic1235

I was hired at my last job as a network and also as the server administrator. Well when I came on to the job the Primary domain controller could not even backup because it had like 10%space left. Fixed that Jam.Our datacenter was in NJ paying probably close to 15,000 for them to keep up. So my new project was to set up new one in NY upstate with DR downstate. I completed the job which I think that was what I was hired for. They re-org the company so my boss got my job who by the way was very sick. I did get a buy out but 2 weeks after my boss passed away. They never re-hired for that position. It seems to me that everybody that got laid off also are changing their careers to IT. I am just glad I have my certs and alot of time in the industry.

nibby059
nibby059

My husband was laid off, made redundant(that sounds worse!) 5 years ago, I waas working for the same company and was frozen out because he was the IT department and knew all the passwords and security protocols. So after the double whammy, he decided to start his own business we have been chugging along very happily for five years. Oh, and the plus point is that his old company needed some work doing and funnily enough his hourly rate was triple his hourly salary five years ago, odd that...

robin.alderton
robin.alderton

one firm i worked for for 10 years had decided that they were going to be making some redundancies throughout the group. Obviously we were all worried that we would be chosen. The division i worked at was the most successful in the whole group and the directors called an emergency meeting with all staff at that divison and told us categorically that our jobs were safe and there were no redundancies planned for any staff in our division. 3 weeks later we were all made redundant, they closed the division and sold the building soon after that!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The contract expired and my employer had no other options in my area. Not a surprise, no hard feelings, and a great reference from my manager. Took a couple weeks off, started a new job within a month, but it was "right place, right time." It never hurts to be lucky.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That rest of it I really don't give a crap. I work for businesses, so if they leay me off for sound business reasons fair enough. After all I don't turn down better opportunities through some sort of misplaced sympathy. If they weren't sound, who wants to work for idiots anyway?

abiemann
abiemann

it'll be the most awesome summer you'll have since working.

RFink
RFink

I was with EDS for 16+ years when I was laid off in 2001. We also joked about the 50/50 rule (Make $50K+, over 50 years old) you're toast. In 2001 I was only 41 and they got me. EDS was nice about it. They didn't escort me out, I was allowed to leave quietly, they allowed me to access their internal job postings system, keep my corporate e-mail, etc. They kept me on the payroll for two months to give me time to find another job. My only complaint was five months after they laid me off they fought my claim for unemployment benefits. :(

JamesRL
JamesRL

1. If you have a boss you don't respect and can't stand, why are you still there? Do they have blackmail material on you? If you are in that situation, you should already be looking. 2. You should not start your job hunt until you've taken the time to calmly analyze what went wrong, what you want, and what kind of company you want to work for. Kinda like the stages of grieving after a death, you have to go through stages. Don't job hunt while angry. So if you need to goof off, do so, but get it over with. 3. Work is the only thing in some people's lives and they are more vulnerable for it. But evern studies show that the best performers balance work and another life and most "workaholics" aren't nearly as productive as they think. 4. Rejection, its natural to feel it at some point, I did when I was laid off by someone who I consider a friend. Get over it, get past it. I've had to lay off people I consider friends, it was nothing personal. 5. See above, don't look for a job till you've done some self analysis and you have your confidence. 6. Enjoy a hobby, spend more time with family, find a part time or contract job, don't become housebound. You need to stay mentally active, and you need to maintain your contacts. I reconnected with a number of people to build my network. 7. You don't have to share all the gore. People understand. And making it too one sided means it won't help you get a good reference. 8. Goes back to the confidence thing and the self analysis. It will come back once you figure it out. 9. If there are things like stock options on the table, you don't have to sign or negotiate right away. When I've been laid off, or laid others off, I've seen a 48 hour period before things had to be signed, in fact we encourage people to see their financial adviser or lawyer and review it. 10. You don't and shouldn't share the gory details. If you were laid off, thats all you need to say. Saying bad things about your previous employer won't help you get hired.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I was laid off after 10+ years on the job (blogged about it on here) 1) I never hated my employer, nor lacked respect. I understood in MY case it was a hard business decision that made sense. 2) Goofing off is a full time job, why do anything halfway? 3) Sanctuary? No, but security and piece of mind knowing you can provide for yourself and your family is a relaxing thought. 4) This would be a personal thing. I knew I did nothing wrong, and was laid off, not fired. I did have to repeat that to myself a few times though, but I knew it was true. To this day a year and a half later, the HR manager is on my list of personal references. 5) Which is why you get your head in the right place BEFORE you start dating or looking for a job. Take a week off and go for a walk in the park. I took a few months looking over my options before I even started looking for something else. 6) The one thing I have learned is I am in no hurry to retire, because it is BORING! Also gets hard to get out of bed in the morning after a while. 7) Gory story? "I was laid off due to cutbacks caused by the down economy". In this day and age, you have been living in a cave if that doesn't say all a prospective employer would need to hear. And a past employer CAN'T talk you down, and sounds like you should have left there a long time before you were thrown out. Life is just too short to wake up every morning and go to "that place". 8) Goes back for getting your head in the right place. Make sure the first places you interview for are NOT the dream job so you can get a few practice interviews in. 9) Know your audience, this is NOT a site for executives, it is a site for techs. 10) Repeating yourself, this is same as #7.

mcswan454
mcswan454

The BEST and most accurate I've read on TR in a while. Tell us some more! M.

jkameleon
jkameleon

- Job hunt constantly. - If at all possible, have an afternoon job, and/or consider a 2nd career - Last, but not least: Be mentally prepared for layoff at all times, no matter how secure your job might seem at the moment. Don't grow emotionally attached to your job. Don't keep personal stuff at work, especially not items of any sentimental value like books, kid pics, plants, posters etc. Have things organized so, that you are able to pack your shit and leave for good in no more than 30 seconds.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I have been on both sides in this scenario. I have been the one let go and the one left behind and you are right. On the surface, you feel for the ones let go. But at least they get the chance to find a potentially more stable environment where the ones left behind are essentially waiting for the other shoe to fall.

spanchakshari
spanchakshari

I am sailing the same boat as you. But learnt a good deal with one of my close friends 'shotgun' type layoff. Hoping its not as bad after all. In India its also a social stigma to a certian extent. I have learnt to ignore that though. Got some leads and working with my network to make it to another offer before I am shown the door. My best to all in the boat.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I have found that after I have been laid off, I tend to be a bit wiser with my money and my bills. It taught me to be smarter with my money and the difference between a want and a need.

s-mullen
s-mullen

Lighten up, Justin. There are plenty of serious articles on being laid off. It is refreshing to have a little fun with it.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Think things can't change in three weeks? Sure they can. Do not assume that your boss was privy to everything that was going on, especially if his job was at risk. Layoffs are typically held very close to the chest. When HR is huddled behind closed doors for days on end, be nervous. James

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I am impressed with your list. The hardest of these is probably #4. I was in the same position but self doubt becomes your enemy when you are laid off.

maecuff
maecuff

The title wraps around when you look at it in the list. I didn't see the 'Off' right away. I started constructing my list, but then I saw the 'off' and I realized it might not be appropriate.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I agree that we have to be mindful of the potential of the possibility of being laid of but we can't dwell on it. I have been laid off 3 times in my life and yes it does suck but we can't live our lives scared. My attitude is that I walk into work everyday with the idea that I will do the best job that I can do today. I will do that everyday until either my employer decides that I shouldn't be here or I decided or I pass on. And as far as not bringing personal items like pictures, I don't suggest you remodel your cube but unless they are running you out with torches and pitch forks I see no problem with a some pictures and a few other personal effects. It would seem unholy not to have a picture of my sons somewhere.

Justin James
Justin James

Sure, a couple of the items were obviously lighthearted and meant to be funny... some weren't. It took it to be a serious article. If it was meant to be funny, it should have been 100% funny. J.Ja

Rufus G.
Rufus G.

There's good & great; no such thing as bad...

jkameleon
jkameleon

It's about not getting too comfortable in there, about quelling that false sense of security. > It would seem unholy not to have a picture of my sons somewhere. You have your sons at home. Be there, and look at them, not their stupid pictures.

santeewelding
santeewelding

It's that expectation of one hundred percent mapped onto the world that will bite you, every time. Me, I thought it was hilarious.

jdclyde
jdclyde

if Mojo is doing it wrong.....

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