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“Laid Off” Misconception

Updated: Sep 24, 2019




"This is a second chance, a do over…turn your dreams into reality."

The unfortunate fact is, since the housing crisis in 2008, many business entities have jumped onto the economy/economic band wagon to justify taking on aggressive organizational tactics where the general employee population has become the collateral damage. In many cases, company’s do not need/have to take such aggressive measures but rather have convinced themselves it is the best answer for the company. In fact, in most cases, it is actually more costly to the company to lay off employees than to retain them.


I remember back in the 1990s and early 2000s when hearing someone had been laid off/let go, in many cases, was just a polite alternative to firing from a company – a kinder, gentler firing of sorts. While that still may be the case in some scenarios, there is a high probability that more than likely a person was laid off/let go due to a company’s fiscal plan. A company’s fiscal plan may take various forms, to include: a re-org/restructure/realignment – or various other soft or politically correct terms for a company’s internal employee reorganization, being bought out or has just been bought out, cyclical financials, one I call “bottom 10%” or “cream of the crop” – either way the result is the same for this one, or the “peanut butter” percentage technique – perhaps one of the most damaging of all.


The misconception around being laid off is over the past five years or so, it has been less about the employee and more about the company. Highly qualified employees are being laid off to benefit the company’s financial goals. While it has been proven it is more expensive to lay off and retrain than to retain talented employees, company’s still tend to follow this antiquated and costly process. The affected talented employees may start to think they must have done something wrong – if this was truly the case, chances are the company would have pursued a formal termination (firing). Or the employee may start to think they are not good enough or that there must be something wrong with their performance – again, more than likely, not the case.


To help validate this view, I have observed several companies that have used the peanut butter technique whereby all departments are required to decrease their staff by x%. This percent usually comes in two to four waves and usually affects from 5% to 20% of the staffing. The tragic downfall to this approach is say that my 10 employees are all top performers, and another department’s 10 best employees are still worse than my poorest performers…but we each need to give up 10% of our staff. We have now just lost two of our top performers and retained eight poor performers, when we could have retained 10 top performers, and only six poor performers. To put this in the form of percentages: retain 100% top and 60% poor OR retain 80% top and 80% poor, which makes more sense?


My guidance to those of you who have been laid off is…embrace it. Use it as an opportunity to shine! Use this as an opportunity to ask for/tactfully demand/negotiate better wages and benefits from your next employer; work for a better company; work in a better position; give yourself a well-deserved pay raise; give yourself a promotion; change careers; pursue an education; or to finally follow your dreams! It all boils down to how you market yourself and your confidence when you present yourself. Self-reflect and determine what you really want to do, and be assertive in your decisions and efforts.


And, yes, ensure your status is accurately reflected on your professional networks…you do not want to be accused of hiding your true status – as long as you have an explanation, you have nothing to worry about. The job market is stronger than ever, and companies are looking for highly qualified candidates.


I know this works because I have taken my own advice. I challenge you to alter your perception a little and create the reality you want. This is a second chance, a do over…turn your dreams into reality.

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