How to handle being laid off with positivity

From the recruitment process and onboarding into a new organisation, to being laid off and going through offboarding, it’s important for employees and candidates to know how to navigate every stage of the employment lifecycle. 

Recently, lay-offs at Twitter have been making quite the splash in the media. Elon Musk’s methods of farewelling employees have left a lot to be desired and by the very nature of their jobs, the public has seen the exiting employees have had a ‘right of reply’ as they share their experience on the very platform that formerly employed them. It’s a flip in the narrative – where organisations typically control the story, this is no longer the case. 

Unfortunately, Twitter staff aren’t the only ones experiencing bad offboarding processes. Musk

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When being laid-off goes wrong

Earlier this year, I spoke with Jack, who had been a senior level executive within a membership organisation. The organisation had recently appointed a new HR team and, one afternoon, with very little notice, he was called in to speak with them. Of course, he was suspicious about what might have been going on, so he took a support person with him to the meeting. 

Jack was right to be suspicious; the meeting was with his Managing Director and HR, who presented him with a document giving notice about his redundancy. Having worked with the organisation for many years, producing great results and building a good rapport with clients, Jack was in shock at this development. There was no performance review, no clue that a restructure was being considered and a plan for moving forward was not communicated. 

Along with his redundancy, he was offered lower-level roles in the organisation or a redundancy payout. After negotiating the payout – the organisation had originally offered something much lower than was appropriate – Jack reluctantly accepted it. 

Clients soon got wind of Jack’s departure, and they weren’t happy! Jack decided to write a letter, explaining that there was no ill-will, that he was grateful to have worked for the organisation and that he wished everyone the best for the future. Management blocked the letter from being released, and wrote one of their own, pushing their own narrative, naming false reasons why Jack had left and casting aspersions on his character. 

Needless to say, Jack was angry, frustrated and disappointed that his time with the organisation had come to an end in such a way and that his reputation had been marred. 

How to navigate being laid off – what you should do as an employee

Jack’s story is all too common and the end result has been less than satisfactory, even as he now tries to move forward. So, what can you learn from his experience? 

  • Advocate for support – this is an important step, even while you’re comfortable in your role, after all, you never know when you might need the support. Jack’s organisation did right by him, by giving him access to an Employment Assistance Program, as well as outplacement. Any big change can be frustrating and emotional. Make sure you are advocating for your own support, so you know you’ll be looked after when the time comes. Finding yourself facing redundancy without any support? It’s not too late to press your management and HR teams to provide you with outplacement.
  • Leave on a good note – it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you, especially when a redundancy has taken you by surprise. Strong emotions are natural, but do your best to stay in control and leave on a good note. There are always possibilities for your return to an organisation as a boomerang employee and, even if that isn’t on the cards, organisations can wield a lot of power over your reputation. It’s important you leave without burning bridges or perpetuating malice.
  • Move forward with positivity – it can be tempting to go after an organisation when they’ve treated you poorly. In some cases, this might be the best course of action. But it is important to remember that it can be a costly exercise, and not just financially. You may find yourself tied up for a long time in a negative process, creating more enemies from the past, rather than creating relationships for the future.

Finishing strong can be difficult when you haven’t been treated right by the organisation you are leaving. Remember how important it is to protect your reputation and leave relationships intact – doing so can help you lay the foundations for a great career as you move forward

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