A Graceful Layoff
Posted on May 6, 2013
6 months, 16 days, 1 hour and 38 minutes. That is exactly how long I held my dream job before I, along with 1100 of my colleagues, received notice of termination. Thankfully, this did not come as a complete surprise. There were bold indications weeks before the deed was done which allowed me to complete the cycle of emotions that accompany unwelcome news. Also thankfully, I cycle quickly. This cannot be said for many of my colleagues. Surviving a layoff with style and grace is not easy. As with many other traumatic life events, it calls one to dig deep, swallow hard and rise above the fray. This must be accomplished when your surroundings are anything but normal.
Today’s advice comes to you born of my recent experience during the weeks leading up to and shortly after the receipt of my pink slip. While the situation could be best described as a blood bath (1100 individuals all released simultaneously), many of you may find yourself in a party of one. No matter the circumstance or number, your release from employment is an opportunity to demonstrate the character you possess.
Anger, resentment, shock, denial. These are all common emotions felt in the aftermath of a termination. While you may not immediately care how you publicly demonstrate your emotion, the long term damage resulting from unchecked reactions can be more catastrophic than you realize. As an (unemployed) Faux Pas aficionado, please review the following advice:
→ Don’t bad mouth the company or any of your fellow employees. This may be the greatest temptation of all but your resistance to disparaging remarks signals dignity and professionalism. Your public display of emotion will follow you long after your exit from the building. This tip also pertains to social media sites inside and outside the company. P.S. If you think your username is anonymous, it is not. Be remembered for your grace not the tantrum. You may need references and networking opportunities for your next job search.
→ Don’t take it personally or shoot the messenger. The person delivering the bad news is generally not the initiator of the directive. Layoff decisions are typically made at the highest levels of an organization and made without names or faces attached. If, on the other hand, you threw up eggnog on the corporate copier during the holiday party, were repeatedly cited for raiding the office supply cabinet of Post-It Notes and you are the only one receiving the pink slip – you might want to consider it personal.
→ Leave all company property with the company. If you did not purchase the goods with personal funds and/or it was used for your job, it belongs to the company. Period. This includes all the files on you company computer whether they are personal or not. Aside from the moral issue, there could be a legal issue as well. Your bad day would be a whole lot worse looking out of a jail cell or having to face financial restitution. Yes, this includes the Post-It Notes hoard.
→ Resist sending mass email goodbyes. I received no less than 50 of these “Dear John” pity notes during the last week of my tenure. After reading the first 10, the time I dedicated to them was as long as it took me to hit the delete button. If you must send an email of departure, take the time to address them to close colleagues and future contacts individually and include your updated contact information.
→ Complete all your unfinished work and complete it well. Depending on the situation, this may not be possible however; make every attempt to complete your work to the best of your ability. Go a step further and offer to transfer your knowledge and collateral to a retained employee.
As for me, I am confident that I will land on my professional feet again soon. I am taking pride in my previous contributions as brief as my tenure was and I look forward to the next chapter. Until then, I will take advantage of my circumstance and intensify my search for Faux Pas worthy specimens and the knowledge and stories I can impart. I have a feeling Faux Pas’s tenure will be substantially longer than my last job. 🙂