Layoffs Aren’t About You

This is a guest post by HR Wench’s Jenn Barnes.

Here’s a story, of a lovely lady:

I was in the process of being laid off, but my managers kept saying different things. So I brought a voice recorder to work (during the last days) and recorded all conversations just in case something legal came up. I managed to hide the recorder under my sweater during meetings and thought no one was the wiser. One day I went on a break and left the recorder at my desk. When I returned, all of the content was erased. Was it legal for me to record conversations (without the other parties knowing) in the first place? Was it illegal for whoever erased the tape to do that?

Rule numero uno about lay offs: There will be wars, rumors of wars, lies, damn lies and maybe even some statistics thrown in for good measure. It’s a lay off and crap is flying every which way.

Expect to hear several different versions of the same story. Think of it as FUBAR or even SNAFU. Sometimes executives don’t even know what is going on–don’t expect your manager to be in on the haps.

I’m not a lawyer (I don’t have the luxury of making decisions & recommendations in a vacuum) but I’d be willing to bet that in most states, recording a conversation without the other party’s knowledge is probably illegal. Further, what could possibly be gained from suing a company that is going through lay offs?

Sure, if there is blatant evidence available for a class action suit for age discrimination (i.e. only employees over 40 are laid off) or something similar, then go for the gusto. But if all different “kinds” of people from across the company are being laid off and it is based on performance, tenure, or last in/first out, then you are wasting time & aggravation by attempting to catch your soon to be ex employer in “something (il)legal”.

Bringing an audio recording device to work may even be against a company policy. Think about R&D departments, trade secrets, legal documents, the eleven secret herbs and spices in the Colonel’s chicken. Some companies are even banning cell phones with cameras from their property.

A few years back some guy who worked for Microsoft took a picture of some boxes at work & posted it on his blog. Guess what? He was almost instantaneously fired. If Bill Gates could have appeared before him in a puff of smoke to do the firing himself, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Companies are competing on a global basis. They take this stuff seriously, yo.

When you know you’re going to be laid off, you really only have two choices:
• Ride it out (if it’s worth your while – think retention bonus)
• Polish up your resume and start looking for a new job

Don’t try to make a lay off about YOU. It’s not about you. It’s about money, honey. Cut your losses and go find your own green…elsewhere.

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HR Wench Jenn Barnes has worked in Human Resources since 2001 and loves to hate it. Feel free to email your HR questions to: hrwench at gmail dot com. She’s one of three Partners at HRM Today, LLC. Check them out at

  • I feel like when people take layoffs personally, they lose a major opportunity to build toward their future (or something less corny). Maintain your relationship with your soon to be ex-company and make every conversation with your future employer a positive one about your experience there.

  • I never take anything personally that I invest at least 40-hours a week into doing. All of that time, problem solving and intellectual integrity to make things better for people is simply not anything about me. I would never dream that anyone would expect good work from me when it doesn’t count in my life. I have no problems foregoing all of the money and benefits I receive while working; it’s not personal to my life.

    Of course people take layoffs personally. The key is to go through the grieving process effectively so one can move on. But to not take a layoff personally? Come on…

  • Great post, Jenn! It’s totally about money, honey.

  • Lance – I take everything personally. If it’s not about me, I’m not interested.

    Scot – You win the Missed the Point Entirely Award. Congrats!

  • People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day’s news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
    And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And is providing you that platform.

  • I have a very close friend, who graduated from Harvard. Worked for ML for over 8 years, last year he’s laid off too. OMG, now the banking industry is badly hurt, how long it would take for those financial background like him get back to the job market. Banking jobs are not there as much as before as easily seen on and other job sites in the region