laid off and then asked back

by Alison Green on April 5, 2009

A reader writes:

I was laid off after working 2.5 years with a company I adored. I was devastated. I kept in contact with coworkers and was persistent about letting my Branch Manager know of my desire to come back.

Finally I landed a new job. But, 3 days later, my Branch Manager gave me an offer. I REALLY don’t know what to do, stay or go.

I have tried to weigh the pros and cons in going back to my old company. Pro: It was a part of my life, I adored the company and I have the chance to return. A position I finally could be proud of proving my dedication and productivity. Con: fear/stability, I ask myself are they going to lay me off again? If so, I’ve lost my new job too and thus am unemployed again.

For new position I just accepted, the pros are that they are a stable company, in business for years, no competition. The cons here are: high expectancy of having 5 demands to complete at once whilst receiving 5 more, resulting in massive reaming. I can’t do 5 things at once…sorry… (I’m not one that enjoys “reaming” and I don’t have it in me to “give it back as it’s dished out to me.”)

Bottom line… Go back to the job I loved and take the chance of getting laid off or the company going belly up? Or stay at new employment and take the chance of being let go or leaving because of frustration?

If this were me, here are the factors I’d base my decision on:

* What’s going on with your old company financially? It’s reasonable to ask them what’s changed since they laid you off. If you leave a new job to return to them, are they willing to guarantee you (in writing) that you won’t be laid off again over the next, say, two years?

* What are your chances of success at your new job, the one you’re currently at? Based on what you wrote, it sounds like it might not be a good fit for you … and maybe that you might not be a good fit for them. If you think their demands are unreasonable, there are two things that could be going on: (1) they’re unrealistic, or (2) they’re not unrealistic; it’s a company that strives to be exceptional and thus looks for employees who can and will work at a faster pace than what you were used to at your old company. If it’s #1 and they’ve been operating that way for a while, they’re unlikely to change. If it’s #2 and you prefer a different pace, they will expect you to adjust or you may eventually lose the job. So you need to be brutally honest with yourself about whether this job is right for you.

Based solely on your letter (which obviously can’t give me all the relevant details), I hear alarm bells about your fit at your current job. So at a minimum, please explore those as part of your decision.

Good luck!

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{ 5 comments }

Anonymous April 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Thank you, you have been helpful. I agree about being “a fit” for my current employer. The current office personnel “back talks” the owner. This is where I won’t fit. He expects and wants me to “talk back” as well (way of life? I have no clue). I’ve been raised to respect those in authority. This is why I made the statement I don’t have it in me to “give it back as it’s dished out to me” As for the work,, I can do it. I would work and have worked 12 hours for 8 hours pay in order to get a job done. I do what it takes. It’s the job left “undone” that concerns me.

Kerry April 5, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I was all set to tell you to stay put until I read your description of your new job.

Only you know what level of financial risk you can take here. I’d be concerned, though, about you losing your new job based on a bad cultural fit; that seems to be a real possibility, based on your description.

I strongly agree with AAM, though, that your first question to your old employer should be about what makes this time different. You need to have a very clear understanding of what has changed before you make a decision.

Rachel - I Hate HR April 6, 2009 at 12:53 am

If the only con is fear of instability then run back. It’s rare that someone like a job that much.

3 months in a job you enjoy is worth far more than 2 years in a job you hate.

Charles April 6, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I would like to add a couple of questions that I would ask myself:

Only 3 days on your new job and you think it is a bad fit? Or are you subconsiously distorting it because your old job was so perfect?

Are you expecting to go back to your old job to pick up where everyone left off? I have often seen people return to former positions or go to work for former supervisors and have high expectations that things will be “just like before” only to be disappointed that things are different.

How many others were laid off when you were? How many of them have been asked back? How long has everyone been away? This could determine how much of your old job you will be doing; how much of the same team you will be working with, etc. – and it could make a difference.

How much of this desire to return to the old job is because it was “comfortable” there? Were you really challenged in doing and learning new things. Will you do and learn more in the new position?

The last question I would ask myself is how much influence is that fact that “they want me back!” is driving your desire to go back? While it is nice to be “wanted” that should not be the main factor in one’s decision.

Good luck!

Anonymous April 7, 2009 at 9:11 am

Thank you very much for the excellent advice. Since the post I have spoken with my prior employer.

The offer I have received is better than I expected. My seniority level would be reinstated, same rate of pay, profit sharing (2.5 years of investment) and benefits including 3 weeks paid vacation.

As for layoff, (There had never been a lay off within this company, in which had been in business for several years, until now) so, he was unable to provide a guarantee due to the fact of the economy’s deterioration. He said BUT, work and revenue are increasing.

I believe the lay off guarantee is unfortunate although realistically speaking, no one knows if there will be a job the following day at pretty much any company. Anymore, there’s not a wealth of job security out there.

I also agree in reference to returning to my previous employ with “rose colored” glasses and the heart felt adoration has been tainted. I am fully aware of most of the changes. I’m sure there’s plenty I’m unaware as well.

I could probably adapt to either position old or new. Maybe I’m asking too much to attain a position with good pay AND enjoy the work as well. Is this a cake and eat it too scenario?

I’ve never succeeded with the “pick a hand” game. I always lose, lol.

Thank you so much for your support. You don’t know how much I appreciate your input.

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