ask the readers: farewell cards when coworkers are laid off

I thought this would be an interesting one to throw out to readers to answer. Here’s the question:

Is it normal to circulate company-sponsored farewell cards for coworkers who have just been laid off? I work for a smallish company (about 100 people) and last week there were 5 people laid off. This is a first in the company’s 10-year history; they’ve always avoided layoffs during lean times. The communication to staff from the leadership team about the layoffs, and the other cost reduction measures, was done in an open and compassionate way. I appreciated the honesty of the communication and I love that my colleagues care about each other.

During the staff meeting where the information was given, one of the department managers asked if we could pass cards around for the people laid off. (The people who were laid off had already been notified and were gone from the company.) Other people nodded in agreement and one of the directors assigned the task to someone right there on the spot.

The next day when the cards made it to my desk, I felt really weird about signing them. There were a few comments in some of the cards about how it was crappy what happened, but nothing worse than that in terms of inappropriateness. I’ve worked in many other companies where layoffs were more common, and any “farewell” messages were handled on a personal basis (i.e., having beers with a small group to bitch about the company). I didn’t really know two of the people who were let go and I felt really weird signing the card. But I was afraid the others would notice if I didn’t. Is this weird, or am I oversensitive?

For the record, I’m just curious about this — I don’t have any issues with my company. The culture is very supportive and caring, and unlike any place I’ve ever worked before. I hope to be here for a long time.

So, what’s your take?

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. Dave

    Hell no.

    If you knew the laid off person personally, or felt a special professional connection to them, you send an email (or linkedin message, or facebook note) offering your help with things such as providing a professional reference, introducing them to job leads you may have, or take them out for a drink. Avoid talking in terms of a death. It’s difficult.

    1. sharon g

      +1
      I’ve been laid off, and getting a card would have made the situation more weird. I’d rather just get my stuff and go.

        1. Samantha

          +3.

          If a person quit then yes a card would be ok. But for getting laid off – it would be weird.

          1. K Too

            +4 and then some. This is so weird and out of touch I don’t even know where to begin. And I’m speaking as a person who has been laid off twice in my life.

      1. Riki

        Same here. When I got laid off, I just wanted to get out of the building. I did go out for (many, many) drinks with coworker friends a few days later, but it definitely wasn’t a company or department organized thing.

      2. Rana

        Honestly? It would have made me angry, because it would feel less like “We’re sorry that you’re going” and more “We’ll miss you, but at least *we* still have jobs!”

        (That’s if it’s from random people and passing acquaintances, though. If it was from people I considered friends as well as co-workers, I’d appreciate it.)

        And if it’s from one of the people who was involved in the layoff decisions? Even worse!

  2. Malissa

    Where I work we are also a very close knit group and the thought of just sending someone out the door with out a card and some cake is almost sacrilegious. We’ve only laid off one person in the six years I’ve been here. There were tears. If the person had simply disappeared with no closure the office would have been a wreck.
    But every work place is different. If you feel the cards are silly, then don’t sign them. Otherwise sign the cards and wish the people good luck in their futures.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree with Malissa about not just letting someone leave. I would want to just say I enjoyed working with you and wish you good luck in the future. To me people matter so much and I would put myself in their shoes. I know how upset I would feel and it would soften the blow to know others cared.

    2. B

      Again as someone who was laid off…I would not care that the office did not have closure and was a wreck. I just got laid off, my only concern is keeping my head above water.
      And by stating that, you are doing the cake more out of a concern for the office than out of concern for the person who was laid off.

      1. Dan

        Exactly.

        After my first layoff, yes “first”, most of the engineers in my group took me to lunch. It was pretty somber, but it made me feel a lot better knowing people cared. I miss those guys.

        It was the first round of layoffs ever in their 14 year history. So management held meetings and provided counseling to help everyone get through it.

        Dan

    3. clobbered

      I agree every place is different. Based on my experience, I would offer every laid off employee the same treatment that they would have received if they had quit or retired. If someone gives you his best for 30 years and you would normally acknowledge this with a card and a cake, offer that person the opportunity to have the card and the cake even if they are leaving because you have eliminated their position. Be sensitive to the fact that they might be angry and turn it down, but there are definitely situations were a lot of people will say yes – in particular small companies where lay-offs were understood by all to be unavoidable and that were sensitively handled.

      Personally, not getting the usual acknowledgement for my contribution would make me feel twice as bad as being laid off. NASA laid off practically every person in the Space Shuttle program. If it was me, I would still like a letter from NASA thanking me for my efforts, the same as the person who saw the cuts coming and found a new job the week before.

      Also bear in mind you may have no idea how the company handled the lay-offs prior to the announcement. Those people that are being laid off may have volunteered but it is not possible to disclose that for legal reasons. In that case they may feel more like they are resigning even if that is not the official story.

      So – I think it really does depend on the person and the situation. Their manager should make discrete enquiries with the employee, and let everyone else know how to handle it.

      1. fposte

        I agree–I think this is really office- and person variable. You’d need a workplace that’s distanced from the people who actually made the layoff call, an office culture where it makes sense, and, preferably, a good work friend to gently find out from the departing person how they want things to go. And it’s not a substitute for the post-departure contact that Dave recommends, which is much more important.

        (That being said, we’d totally have a farewell of some kind within my work group, after verifying that it’d be okay with the person in question. But I wouldn’t want one that involved people outside of that group if it were me.)

      2. Rana

        Agreed. If it’s a “this happens to everyone who leaves” thing, then you’d be expecting it, and it wouldn’t be as weird. But if it’s unevenly applied, then you run the risk of weirdness and insulting people.

        I will admit that I’m not neutral on this topic, because the one time I was laid off they didn’t bother to tell anyone (and this was a small, 30 person office). They just told me at the start of the day, left it up to me to tell my supervisors myself (yes, I know), and that was that.

        It turned out that I ended up going back there a week later under contract (because they’d not realized that I was the only one who knew how to do a particular vital and time-sensitive report) everyone other than my supervisors and HR was surprised because they thought I’d just quit.

        And then, while I was there, the woman who’d given me my notice was surprised (and hurt, of all things) that I wasn’t interested in attending the huge going-away party they were throwing for some other person who’d been there a shorter time than me.

        Yeah.

        1. Rana

          I mean, I don’t think I would have wanted a party myself (as some of the folks below note, I wouldn’t have been in the mood). But being expected to be happy and cheery around co-workers who hadn’t even realized I’d been laid off was salt in the wound.

    4. Anonymous

      When my position was eliminated at the community college I worked at, my department had a “Good Luck” pizza party for me. They also gave me a card with some cash because they knew that I was struggling to make ends meet and they felt bad about the whole situation. It was nice to know that I was appreciated but it was awkward at the same time.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Aww. That was really nice of them. I can see that if the people are really close, or if the department or company is really small. Most of the time though, it’s like “Auggugh get me out of here.”

  3. Liz in a Library

    I would be absolutely furious if I was laid off then given a card *from the company* that had circulated amongst all my co-workers. It’s like drawing extra attention to what had happened and rubbing salt in the wounds.

    I would not be bothered by any well wishes of any sort from individuals…but the company?! For a layoff?!

    1. B

      +1
      I was laid off and was fine having people stop by to send me well wishes, good luck etc. But if you sent me a card I would have set it on fire. Do not waste money on a cake and/or card, just let me get my stuff and go.

    2. Nikki

      “I would not be bothered by any well wishes of any sort from individuals…but the company?! For a layoff?!”

      Same here, what in the world did the card say? What kind of card was it? I know they make ‘encouragement’ cards…I would feel weird signing such a card and so so sad.

    3. Long Time Admin

      Yeah. That’s one of the most insensitive things I’ve ever heard of. I would tear the card up into tiny little pieces (pretending it was the incompetent management people who got our company into this mess in the first place) then burn the pieces and flush the ashes down the toilet.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        For what it’s worth, plenty of layoffs happen for reasons beyond an employer’s control — for instance, in construction when the economy started taking a downturn. Those managers who had to lay people off weren’t responsible for the entire recession.

        1. Long Time Admin

          My company’s had 3 layoffs so far this year. We’re down to 1/2 the number of people who were here a year ago. My company had ONE major client, and didn’t pursue any others. The one firm like ours in the area who did go after other clients is booming. They’ve been picking up a lot of the folks who have been laid off. Big difference in management here. My boss, his two brothers, his son, his sister, his best friend, and his wife (the Board of Directors) don’t like change, so they never did anything different and now we’re in a big hot mess.

  4. KellyK

    I agree with Liz. It’s tacky, and it just serves to rub salt in the wound. If an individual supervisor wants to give a card to people under their supervision, that might be a nice gesture. Same thing if it comes from specific coworkers.

  5. Anonymous

    Ugh, we not only circulate cards, we actually have GOING AWAY PARTIES for people who are laid off. I absolutely hate them–they are the most awkward thing ever. If you voluntarily leave you are also forced into a party even if you don’t want one too – someone recently tried to get out of it by making her last day a half day but we ended up all eating the mandatory cupcakes at 10am.

    1. Anonymous

      oh, and from my own perspective, I’ve been laid off and I would find a going away card insulting. It was a rough time – I’m in architecture, and you know how hard hit the industry was. It was very sad, I loved my boss and my coworkers and there were tears at my dismissal meeting, but I was incredibly grateful that they let me pack up and leave the same day instead of dragging it out. A friend/coworker set up an informal, non-company-sanctioned happy hour a couple weeks later and it was nice to catch up with people once I was over the shock.

      1. Dan

        “…A friend/coworker set up an informal, non-company-sanctioned happy hour a couple weeks later and it was nice to catch up with people once I was over the shock.”

        I love this!

    2. Liz in a Library

      Oh god…the party is such a bad idea. I know myself, and I could completely see myself at a party like that bursting into tears or something equally embarrassing as I tried desperately not to think about how I was going to pay my mortgage until I could get a new job.

      People need to be allowed to grieve a job loss. I know that sounds weird, but you are in fact losing a part of your life/routine at that moment. Being forced to eat cupcakes with people who know you got booted (not that you were leaving for a better opportunity) would be terrible.

      1. Nodumbunny

        “People need to be allowed to grieve a job loss.” This is right – and you know how sometimes when people are grieving they don’t want to observe the usual social niceties because they’re in the anger phase of grieving? And in this case, they have someone to blame in their anger and it’s the company and, to some degree, even their former co-workers who didn’t get the ax. Folks shouldn’t try to make them play nice when the company has just thrown them under the bus and, to tell the truth, everyone else is feeling a little bit of guilty relief it wasn’t them.

      2. Kelly O

        Totally agree with you.

        One of the hardest things I ever had to do was come back to the office the day my husband was fired. I had to take our daughter to the doctor, and I came home, talked with him, and made the decision to come back.

        It felt like the right thing to do so I could at least show I understood theoretically the difference between us in the workplace, but let me tell you leaving that man at home in the state he was in was so hard. Not that he’s a child who needs sitting, but that shock and loss is so palpable, it takes time to get yourself over that so you can start thinking about moving on.

        And honestly I would not want a card. Or a cake. The people I want to stay in touch with will get my contact information. Everyone else is welcome to take a very long walk off a very short pier.

      3. Anonymous

        Having been on both sides of the layoff axe, I would say the people left behind need to be able to grieve too–it’s really tough and demoralizing, especially when it’s really big cuts or over several rounds.

        1. B

          I agree with this as I have been there when the axe was given to others. But the main difference is that the people who are still working get over it a lot sooner than those who just had the rug pulled out from underneath them (still true even when you know it is coming).
          The main point is that those with a job should not grieve at the expense of the person who was just laid off. Because no matter what they are much worse off.

          1. Anonymous

            I didn’t really make this clear at all but I meant that things like forced party are not really the way to allow the remaining coworkers to grieve in their own way either! It’s so forced. Personally, I think they are for the benefit of the company – a way to put a shiny finish on a crappy situation.

  6. Lisa

    I’ve been through multiple rounds of layoffs with my last two employers, both as a survivor and with my previous employer a laid-off employee, along with my whole team after surviving three previous rounds. I think this completely depends on the team culture. I would not feel comfortable signing (or, in the laid-off person’s position, receiving) a card after the layoff was already complete and the person was gone from the office. But in a genuinely close, warm, tight-knit team environment, I can see a heartfelt card from the team being appropriate on the day that the laid-off team member has to leave–delivered personally, along with hugs and genuine offers of support, references, LinkedIn recommendations, etc.

    I treasure the email my supervisor sent about my team after she had to lay us off at my first startup, and she and I have remained close even though I was well aware from the day of the layoffs that she was the one who made the call. She notified the people who were close to members of my team–and had been paying attention to know who those colleagues were–and gave a heartfelt apology for the decision she had to make in a company that, by then, we all knew was not on track to survive the year. She praised each team member individually and gave our contact information to colleagues, along with LinkedIn links and a suggestion that colleagues who had worked with my team write LinkedIn recommendations if they felt moved to do so. She also made sure my company email was not shut down before I could read both her message and my colleagues responses sharing memories of good times together. It made a very sad situation a little easier, and opened the door to keep in touch despite the fear and siloing that were happening in the company, as they always do when everyone knows their employer is failing.

    1. Nikki

      This is a genuine gesture from your supervisor and the team. It did work in this situation.

      But for people in the office you don’t even know? Especially after they’re already gone? I can understand that being uncomfortable for those left behind and for the receiver. It seems less than genuine (if I had to sign such a card) and a bit odd.

      Even if I was all torn up over the person(s) being laid off, I’d have made my sentiments known and wouldn’t sign a ‘company card’ maybe a team card, but not a company card.

  7. Sarah M

    I think this is weird. A company-sponsored card seems inappropriate, but from individuals or a small group would be ok. In the position of the OP, I probably wouldn’t have signed them, especially for the people I didn’t really know. I would’ve just passed them on to the next person, or if they’re being escorted around I would’ve explained that I didn’t really know them well enough or that I already had plans to reach out on my own.

    Weird. And obviously not a lot of thought was put into it.

  8. Ellen M.

    I am not in favor of this. They are laying you off, and wishing you well at the same time? Wha?

    Is this to make the decision makers feel better? Let people express individually and privately what they might have to say to those who are laid off.

    This just adds insult to serious injury.

  9. Bridgette

    I’m in the no-card camp. Informal farewells from close coworkers? No problem, sounds great. A company wide card, or party? Not so great. Even though the company is compassionate and it sounds like it was a very healthy lay-off period, I think it’s just a bad idea. Also, take into account the laid-off person’s personality…some have commented they would set the card on fire or be mortified. Others might love a party. To me, it’s too dicey – so let the peons organize any cards or parties on their own (those that know the laid-off person and what they would like or not like), without company involvement. If it comes from the top it just seems way too much like kicking them while their down.

  10. lucy

    oh no no no no no. bad idea.

    It’s kind of like cheering for someone to cross the finish line after they’ve already lost the race. It only draws attention to the fact that they’re the loser.
    (not that someone is a loser because they get laid off, but for analogy’s sake)

    But that being said, if everyone else signs the card and you don’t, it would probably suck even more for that person. I would hate getting that card, but if I noticed that someone didn’t sign it, it’d probably hurt my already sensitive feelings. I would definitely not think “well thanks, Jane, for not signing this inappropriate card on principle.”

  11. Jen W

    I can understand cards, cakes and such for folks who are retiring or leaving on their own accord. For those laid off, no way. I agree with some of the other comments – if you know the person personally, approach them in a way you feel appropriate. I was laid off from a job last year. Human Resources gave me a brochure titled “Be Happy”. I was fine with the situation right up until I received the brochure. Then I wanted to tell the everyone in the company where to shove their brochure. Of course I didn’t – burning bridges and all – so I felt even worse about myself. I had become unemployed AND a pansy who doesn’t take a stand.

    1. ruby

      Was the Be Happy brochure specifcally about how to Be Happy about being laid off? Or just general advice on how to Be Happy? I’m fascinated/horrified and must know more!

    1. K.

      Preach! This is a very insulting suggestion. It would be like getting dumped and having your now-ex pat you on the head and say “But you’re still a good person.”

  12. Blue Dog

    Wow. The manager is a dipshit for suggesting that.

    I understand that people can get upset when they find out that “Bog is gone and I didin’t get to say goodbye.” But normally, this is the kind of suggestion that rolls in from a junior person or someone who is very naive.

    Certainly, from a manager’s point of view, I think it would have been best to counsel the team to contact the departed employee personally.

    One more thought: whoever took the bait and wrote the lay-off was “crappy” — and then passed it around for the entire world to see — was a fool. While you may feel this way, there is simply no reason to put something like this in writing and then distribute it to your other coworkers!

    I think the most prudent course of conduct is just to pass the card along unsigned. And if a nosy co-worker asks why you didn’t sign poor old Bob’s card, you can say you have / are going to reach out to him privately.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This comment gets at what I find most interesting about the situation, which is how it happened. Because layoffs are really hard to manage well, and it sounds like this company did a really good job of it, aside from this weird card idea.

      So here’s my guess about why it happened: The OP says that during the meeting announcing the layoffs, one of the managers suggested the card idea. (And I’m with you on betting that this was a particularly naive manager, who maybe hadn’t seen many layoff situations before.) And when that happened, the company’s management was taken off-guard and felt like they couldn’t say no, because they didn’t want it to turn into this story: “We asked if we could send her a goodbye card, and they refused to let us.”

      So they said yes, and the door was opened to this weird awkwardness.

      What they should have done, of course, is what you suggest: Encourage people to contact the laid-off people personally. But I can understand how, in a very tense and difficult moment which they had otherwise handled well, they tripped up on this part.

      1. OP

        Thanks, Alison, and everyone else for the feedback! It was definitely a weird blip in an otherwise well-handled situation. A lot of people here have their hearts in the right place but don’t always think things through. Hopefully we don’t have layoffs again, but if they do and the card idea comes up, I will offer the suggestion to contact people personally as an alternative.

  13. Anda T

    I’ve just been laid off recently, and I also received a card from my fellow co-workers. It just served to add salt to the wound. All I could think of, was thanks, but I’d rather be still employed.

    I have a question that’s along the same lines, but has to deal with further contact after being laid off. What’s the protocol for taking phone calls from the boss that laid you off? This person wasn’t a friend away from work, and is not someone I’d likely meet again in the design community I work within. Is this normal? Is there a good way to say, thanks but no thanks to the phone calls?

      1. Anda T

        She won’t say directly on my voicemail, but I suspect it’s a therapy session. (She’s had a habit of boundary issues during my entire tenure at the job.) I know she feels bad about the layoff since it was due to budget issues, not work performance. I don’t have any interest in talking to her. There’s not a good way to answer “how are you holding up?” when you’re trying to scramble for freelance gigs and take care of a new baby. I really just want to move on, but she doesn’t seem to be getting the hint. Being direct isn’t an option. She can hold a grudge and should a future employer call her about my past employment, I’d rather not have it be a personal attack because she’s angry with me.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Ah, got it. Well, you could use my phone avoidance technique: Email her back instead of calling her back and say something like, “Got your message but am rarely going to be near a phone this week — figured I’d try you by email instead.” That way, if she’s actually calling for a good reason (job lead, for instance), she can email you back and tell you about it.

          I am the master of doing this to avoid phone calls that I’m not motivated to take. Sometimes the person will say in response to this, “Oh, just call me back whenever you have the time,” and then I will get even more direct: “I’m swamped in the next few weeks, but I’ll be on email — what’s up?”

          1. Catherine

            Excellent tactic – I have trained my clients to email me first, then we’ll set up a time to call, by doing that exact thing – respond to phone messages with an email. I hate unexpected phone calls and I don’t deal well with them. I also hate voicemail messages that say, I have a quick question, call me back – well you can email me your quick question, because it’s never quick and I usually have to research it.

          2. Unmana

            Yes! I do this too. I hate answering phone calls from people who aren’t close friends (most of the time), but I’m on email all the time.

  14. Anonymous

    Something like this just happened at my workplace (a party that the recipient didn’t want). It was awkward because I figured out that my coworker was um… pushed to leave… but nobody else figured it out! She was a longstanding but bad employee. I enjoyed working with her as a person but couldn’t stand her work ethic. Did I go to the party? Of course not. It would put me (and former coworker) in an awkward position.

    PS: The party was apparently a flop.

    1. Anonymous

      Situations like that then bring up the question of whether it is worse to sit through a party no one wants, or throw a party no one wants (that I assume the person it was for still showed up to) and have no one show up?

      I don’t agree with parties, cakes, or anything else that draws attention to a co-worker leaving for reasons beyond their choosing, but I would also feel horrible if that person went to suffer through an awkward goodbye party for the sake of not burning bridges and only a few people showed.

      It should be noted I hate goodbye parties in general. When I left my previous job to move into a new position I purposely made myself unavailable during my final two weeks and avoided attempts for a party after I had left. I was severely over qualified for the job (which I had taken because I just needed A JOB to pay my bills) and was moving somewhere much, much, better for me. The people I worked with were in a bubble with the idea that there could be no better place to work and would “pop in” constantly in my last two weeks to quiz me on why I was leaving and “remind me” of what a great place it was to work and that I was stupid to leave.

      Why can’t people just say “best of luck to you” and move on?!

      1. The Other Dawn

        This reminds me of a recent situation. A friend of mine just left a very dysfunctional company and her last two weeks were fraught with numerous questions from her boss as to why she was really leaving. You know, because obviously it was such a great place and why would anyone want anything more. This is despite numerous discussions with her boss about how there was not enough work, wasn’t getting enough training, etc. She was very happy they didn’t give her a party since she just wanted out. They did get a small cake for her though.

  15. The Other Dawn

    I’ve never been laid off so I’m not really sure how I would feel. If the card was from just a few close co-workers I would probably think it’s a nice gesture and say thank you; however, a card signed by everyone in the company would be embarrassing and would likely make me think, “Gee, no one cared before, but they all care now.” I wouldn’t want it advertised that I was just laid off and wouldn’t want people to write down awkward sentiments for someone they barely know just for the sake of making a “nice gesture”.

    1. Catherine

      “Gee, no one cared before, but they all care now.” – that hits the nail on the head. In the case of the OP, s/he doesn’t want to seem insincere by not signing, but doesn’t know the person well enough to really sign it and mean it. These broad, company-wide gestures just scream insincerity to me, which is why it feels like rubbing salt on the wound.

  16. Shane

    I can see personal greetings and cards from individuals. I don’t see the point of a company sponsored card though because I feel that at best it would have no real meaning and at worst it could be taken as an insult.

    Reading above I am absolutely shocked at “going away” parties for people who were laid off. Makes sense for someone who is moving on to other things but I feel that these kind of events would just end up being taken as “we got rid of you so we are going to really make an effort to enjoy ourselves while you walk out the door for the last time” parties.

    I have been laid off once close to 15 years ago and to be honest I wanted nothing other than to slip out quietly at the end of that last day. If they were so upset to see me go that they could create an event in my honour I would think the company could have just kept me on instead.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with you that these parties are weird, but to be fair, it’s not about “if they were so upset to see you go, they could have just kept you on.” Layoffs aren’t about how much someone is liked; they’re about cutting positions that aren’t profitable for the company or that the company can no longer afford. It’s not about being told you’re not liked or that your work was bad. (I mean, certainly sometimes people are picked for layoffs on those bases, but in general that’s not what a layoff is. That’s what a firing is.)

      1. Scott M

        While I wouldn’t like a card or a party, I agree with this sentiment. Being laid off is just an economical issue, not a performance issue. That’s why they call it being ” laid-off”, not being “fired”.

      2. Shane

        I understand the difference but the person on the wrong side of this situation might not feel that way and, even if they don’t express anything for fear of burning bridges, they are probably going to be more defensive about the situation.

    2. Grace

      I’d take a voluntary party any day over what some companies, like one I worked at did: They had surprise lay-offs, hired a security company, had long-time executives and employees pack up their desks under security supervision, and escorted loyal, professional employees from the building in minutes. No goodbyes after decades of faithful work. Heartless. Traumatic.

  17. Anonymous

    I was unfortunate to be laid off only a mere few weeks ago; my position was eliminated in a round of budget cuts. When my boss told me, I instructed that I wanted to leave quietly. I was obviously upset and didn’t want a lot of people gossiping about my leave or coming up to me asking me what happened.

    After my boss made the official announcement, I did get a few close co-workers come and talk to me and that made me feel better. But, I would have been opposed to a company card or party. Like others on here have said, I really just wanted to collect the items from my desk, leave, sulk for a few days, and get on with looking for a new position elsewhere.

  18. ruby

    I’ve been laid off and also laid people off and I say “no” to group cards. It’s an inappropriate response to the situation. If you want to connect with some of the laid off folks, reaching out via email/LinkedIn (esp. if you are able to write a nice recommendation for them) would be the best response. It’s nearly impossible not to feel some level of anger and bitterness about a layoff and I think getting a card would hit a lot of people the wrong way, even though the intention is a good one.

    1. Anonymous

      I like the recommendation on LinkedIn idea. That would be a nice touch. Especially if you use your linked in profile to apply to a job or if an employer researches you on it.

      I went through the depression/anger/bitter stage for a couple of weeks. Its tough enough. A card would have been taken as rubbing it in that I’m not there while others are.

  19. Emily, admin extraordinaire

    I’m torn. I’ve been laid off twice (and had the whole company close once) and would have really appreciated a card in one instance and looked at is as rubbing salt in the wound in the other. It really depends, I guess, on the office culture and how the layoff was handled.

  20. KayDay

    hmm, I have mixed feelings about this–I think it depends on how close-knit the group is, the structure of the hierarchy, and how well the lay-offs were handled. I think a card coming from (i.e. signed by) the same management that decided on the layoff would be horribly tacky; but an almost company-wide card coming from coworkers who were not involved in the decision might be appropriate in a close-knit workplace.

    If management wants to do something nice they should use their network to help those laid off with the job search (find out what companies are/will be hiring, give preemptive recommendations, offer to be an awesome reference, etc).

    In the OP’s case, since there already is a card that will be sent no matter what, you might as well just sign it with a simple best wishes, we will miss you message.

    1. Scott M

      That’s interesting… when the OP talked about signing the card, I assumed it would be just that.. a signature. Somehow, adding a message would seem more disingenuous. Perhaps that was the key issue here?

      When signing a card passed around the office, I usually just sign my name. I rarely add message. Is that unusual? What does everyone else do?

      1. Anonymous

        Depending on what the card is for, I’d usually put a message. Nothing long or drawn out, just “happy birthday!” or “best wishes!” or “So sorry for your loss”. I never write more than a line, even if I know the person really well (because if I know them really well and am close with them personally, I’d likely do something more for them than just sign the office card)

  21. Rachel B

    Oh man. I can’t imagine anything more awkward than a farewell party or group card! A number of my former coworkers were “forced out”: fired or publicly berated so that they resigned. I think a personal email, if you’re not able to say farewell face-to-face, is most appropriate.

  22. Anonymous

    As someone who was laid off recently, when I got the news, the only thing I wanted to do was go home and start my job search. I could care less if the other members of my department felt badly. If they had sent me a card, I would most likely have written “Return to sender” and put it back in the mail. Seriously, who comes up with these ideas to have a party or send cards? I wouldn’t be inclined to attend any party at the company unless I was going to get more severance for it. Otherwise, I have problems to deal with and I’d be better off at home making plans to deal with my new issues.

  23. ChristineH

    When I was laid off in 2008 (I was the only one), they gave me a party and a card (I think there was a cake too, can’t remember). It does seem a little tacky, but the comments written in my card seemed genuine.

  24. Rob Bird

    At this point, the farewell cards are more for who is left at the company then the people that were let go. There is a greiving process on both sides; the people who were let go and the people who are left (I have been part of a mass layoff, so I know).

    It is a way for the employees that are left to have a sense of closure. I would put my name on it, but probably not much else.

  25. Anonymous

    I agree with most here regarding a company wide signed card is salt to the wounds.

    I’ve been laid off twice in my career…both budgetary reasons/job elimination. The first time I found my letter in the Xerox machine. One of my co-workers came by and said “I suggest you check the Xerox machine immediately”. I did and there was a copy of my letter. My co-workers knew before I did! I was furious and took it to my director and said jokingly “this is a fine way to be notified!” She was mortified even though it wasn’t her fault. It was HR’s fault for leaving a copy of my letter in the Xerox machine. As a result, my director let me stay and pack my things after 15 years and distribute files to the appropriate depts. for them to deal with and I got to say goodbye to some valuable people and exchange info. No vendetta involved. I was grateful for that…although I was a little POed that HR left my letter in the Xerox machine…but oh well! People make mistakes.

    Second time, I was laid off…I was told by HR toward the end of the day and she barely gave me time to get my purse before escorting me out the door. I was very fortunate that a kind soul…one of the guys in the mailroom…packed a box of my personal items (calendars, pictures of my brothers family, work related award certificates, my favorite vanilla flavored coffee mix, my coffee mug, etc.) that I wasn’t given time to get. Also in the box were some “post it” notes lining the inside of the box with some of my close co-workers personal email addresses. The note from the guy who packed the box was “:( I am going to miss you terribly! This is the very least I can do for the smiles you’ve brought to so many.” I was terribly touched. That was a cool thing to do.

    A company wide signed card?……………no way. I’d shred that thing. A lay off is just that. HR escorted me out like I was a criminal. I’m the victim of job elimination due to budgetary reason…..at least give me the decency to let me get my stuff. Take the computer away from me immediately if you’re that nervous…but allow me the dignity and decency to get my things! :D And no cards please. Let me get my stuff and leave quietly. I left quietly…I just couldn’t my stuff! Thank you mail guy! :D For sending it to me! And put the personal post it notes. :D

    1. Anonymous

      I feel your pain. Management escorted me to my desk and then to the door when I was laid off. Seriously? I’m not going to break anything or do anything wrong. Just let me collect my things and leave peacefully. I guess companies can be that way sometimes.

  26. Christine

    Totally bizarre, although it sounds like it was done with good if misguided motives.

    I’ve had to lay a few people off due to budget cuts as a mid-level manager in a large company, and in those cases, I simply asked the people we were losing if they’d like a good bye lunch with coworkers of their choice. Some people say yes, some say no. The ones who have said no preferred to get a bite one on one. I should note that these were all layoffs with notice (two weeks) not same-day. And yes, I paid for their lunch, and did everything I could to help them find their way into a new job.

    1. Anonymous

      Is it normal to have notice when getting laid off? When I had mine several years ago, right at the beginning of the recession, I was given same day notice. Is this normal?

        1. Mike C.

          One important exception are mass layoffs that are covered under the WARN act. There are a few requirements but in a nutshell if a location is closing and 100+ people are being laid off then there has to be a 60 day notice.

        2. Anonymous

          When I was laid off I was given 5 minutes to collect my things and leave. I’ve only been laid off once before (back in the I.T. crash) and that was same amount of notice. To be honest, if I’m going to be out of work, I’d rather just leave. Not to be rude to my coworkers, but to just start on my job search.

        3. ChristineH

          I was given one month’s notice of my layoff. And this was at a relatively small nonprofit.

        4. KellyK

          Another exception can be defense contracting, although sometimes those layoffs end up not being layoffs if you find another position within the company. When I was working on a contract that wasn’t renewed, we all got letters with a month’s notice that the contract we were working on was ending and that if we didn’t get another position within the company, our last day would be X. I got another position, several other people were let go.

          Though it varies a lot depending on how a particular company handles things, as well as how a contract ends and what notice the company got. If a contract isn’t renewed for the “option” years, it ends on a scheduled date and that’s often known well in advance, where if it’s terminated for other reasons, that can be sudden.

        5. Suz

          I never realized that wasn’t common. When I was laid off, we were all given 4 weeks notice to allow time to turn our projects over to the remaining staff. We were also allowed to work on our resumes and start job hunting during work hours during that period.

      1. Blinx

        We had 60 days. It was excruciating. In some ways, I was grateful for the pay and the time to collect all my files/emails/things (I had boxes and boxes of stuff), we were like the walking dead. People didn’t know what to say/do. My projects had been reassigned. And by the last week, you know they were thinking “But didn’t she get laid off… what she still doing around here?” Two weeks would be ideal. Enough time for it to sink in, get your resume/profile up and running, and say your goodbyes.

  27. Anon

    My layoff – along with many coworkers’ – was positioned as an “early retirement.” Those who were 50 or over could opt to “retire” with certain benefits. We each got a “don’t tell anyone!” message from our manager that if we didn’t volunteer we’d be laid off with reduced benefits, so it really was a workforce reduction by another name. Most of us were just 50 and not anywhere near ready for retirement. We hit the job market before we even got out the door. But our coworkers gave us cards and chipped in for “retirement” gifts. “Isn’t it going to be great sitting around all day, playing shuffleboard, doing whatever you want?” they said. It was well meant but very awkward. Peers just a year or two younger than me one day were talking as though I’d won the lottery and aged 20 years overnight. I was sorry they spent their money and a bit creeped out that they bought into the PR story so wholeheartedly. It was just a layoff, just business, and certainly not some happy occasion. “Gimme your home email and we’ll stay in touch!” would have felt more appropriate.

  28. Charles

    ” . . . one of the department managers asked if we could pass cards around for the people laid off.”

    I’ll guess that having a knucklehead manager like this is one of the reasons why they are having layoffs!

  29. Anonymous

    One of my good work friend’s contract was not renewed and our boss wanted to have a “going away” party with a card and cake for him. I thought it was extremely tacky and potentially very embarrassing as not everyone was aware why he was not coming back. Luckily, the boss was out of the office the day of the party and I was able to divert the whole thing so my poor friend didn’t have to sit through that awkward mess. It still boggles my mind why you would think this is a good idea!

  30. Long Time Admin

    No card. A good severence package is better (much, much better). And a good bitch session with a few buddies.

    It took me a long time, but I finally learned that work is work. Not family, not even friends (except for a very few people). Work is where you go to earn money to live. It’s great to enjoy what you do and to have a congenial workplace, but never forget that they’ll toss you out like a used kleenex the minute it suits them.

  31. Just laid off

    I was just laid off, along with 5 other staff at a mid-sized non-profit org where the staff is quite close. I worked there more than 10 years and received excellent performance reviews each year. I was a loyal employee who loved my job. I knew the HR manager well, but she and the other person in a leadership position charged with the task of delivering the layoff news handled the situation in an impersonal and robotic manner. It was the end of the day. I didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye or be wished well by my co-workers, many of whom were also friends. I just packed up my belongings, including an award I received on my last day of employment at my previous job and left. (There I got an award, here I was given an empty box.) I heard from many staff via text, email, or phone, but it would have been really meaningful to receive cards from individuals–my work friends as well as the many folks at work with whom I enjoyed strong working relationships, but did not socialize with outside of work. After all, they don’t have my mobile number or personal email. To make the situation better for all parties, the leadership and HR manager should get out in front it and make cards (and the laid-off person’s address or personal email address) available to staff to send personal notes–and they should encourage staff to do so. They should acknowledge it may be awkward, but remind them how alienating layoffs are and that a little note goes a long way. This level of care is a reminder that the people at the org are compassionate, that your time and service there was valued and that you are missed. I also would have appreciated a separate letter from the board acknowledging my service (rather than including a line about it in my termination letter). An official letter from the organization would have meant the world, too.

    1. Vicki

      The end of the day? At a previous job, I was laid off in the middle of the day. Same thing with the HR (so-called “Employee engagement”) person.And then she said I had to leave by the back door and not set foot in the building again.

      And yes, it was a layoff. Over the next several weeks they laid off 40 people in the same manor. No one was given a box. Their things were packed for them and shipped to them.

      Again, the idea of anyone at a company being willing to show that they cared, that the laid off people weren’t rubbish is so awesome.

      Sign the card.

  32. Vicki

    In my experience with layoffs, many companies just send the person out the door (now) with maybe an hour to pack. And _no one is told_. There is no communication to the staff. There is no communication to the team. The only way someone finds out that a co-worker was laid off is if that person manages to tell them… or when their email bounces.

    The idea that firms like your exist blows my mind. As someone who has been laid off (three times) I would have loved to have had a “we’re so sorry the company did this” card. I would have loved to have a “we wish you were still here” note.

    The people I connect with still are the ones who contacted me afterward and said “Wow. I’m so sorry you had to leave.” The ones who stuck their heads in the sand and pretended it never happened? We will never speak again. I wouldn’t help them network or find a new job and we’re not connected in LinkedIn. Yes, it’s petty, but that’s the way I feel.

    Sign the card.

  33. Two-cents

    I’m curious; were there five cards? One for each of the five people who were laid off? I agree with the others who say that a card would NOT be appreciated. I’ve been laid off, right after conducting training for managers and HR staff in how to notify and handle communicating a layoff. One of the points in making a layoff notification is to recognize that the person being laid off is most likely going to feel a lot of things and not one of their feelings is likely to include how to make their manager or their coworkers feel better about the decision. They don’t necessarily want to be ignored, but a company card signed by everyone is just weird and would have made me uncomfortable. Individual messages, phone calls, email, etc., felt much more appropriate. Even an individual card would have felt too much like a sympathy card. I agree with the suggestions that recommend former coworkers make individual connections rather than create a company-sponsored message. Just my “two-cents!”

  34. Elizabeth West

    I’ve been laid off twice and quit one job where they gave me a going-away party. They did that for everyone who was leaving (the party) at that place. I don’t think I’d want a card, and the layoffs were 1) at the end of the day, so I just left, and 2) after lunch and they stood over me and I was out of there in under an hour.

    Worst layoff I ever saw: at a non-profit where I worked, the CEO stood up one month at the all company meeting and said “We’re going to make some changes in [my] department. And [coworker] as of the end of this week will be leaving us.” THEY NEVER TOLD HER BEFORE THE MEETING; THIS IS HOW SHE FOUND OUT. She turned bright red, and the rest of us were all 0_o !

    No one felt safe after that. I think that was the intention. Our consensus? Just plain evil.

    1. Lisa

      Wow…what a horrible way to find out! Same goes as for me being told by a co-worker that my separation letter was in the Xerox machine. But the only benefit to that was while it was HR’s mistake, I was prepared instead of being shocked by the news. But to have a CEO announce at a meeting that coworker will be gone as of the end of the week without having spoke to them first??? WOW! What are people thinking?

  35. Blinx

    I’m not sure there is any one right way to handle a layoff, but there are plenty of wrong ways. I had to beg one colleague not to have a huge lunch for the group of us that were going. I mean, she wanted to invite tons of people and drag this thing out for hours. I told her it would be like a wake and were were all there on display for the viewing. Ugh. Finally got it down to a handful of close coworkers. But on that very last day, someone brought in a cake. Why there has to be cake, I just don’t know. Nothing is going to make the laid-off or the survivors feel any better. Some things are just sad and you just have to get through it.

    What did I appreciate? Notes/emails/cards/quick conversations with those that I knew well, and some that I had only briefly worked with. What confused/surprised me? Not hearing at all from those I worked very closely with for years, even after I left them a voicemail. Severance has more than one meaning, and I had to accept that maybe it was easier for some to make a clean break.

    What I wish would happen? That employees/managers would have some guidance on how to handle things. What to do if you are laid off suddenly, or if you saw it coming from miles away. No notice or lots of notice. Or, if you kept your job but many people you liked are now leaving. Perhaps your workload will now increase, or perhaps you live in fear that the next round will be your turn.

    True story: We had one woman die suddenly in the night. That day, there were grief counselors on site, and an email from the VP with attachments on how to handle grief. Very nice of them to provide this support. But hundreds of people laid off? No clue on how to deal with that grief.

  36. susiequeue

    My last day of work was today, as my position is being eliminated. I have known for 3 months. I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions, and was really dreading today, especially since it coincided with the clerical workers’ picnic. I had considered not going. Well, my immediate co-workers were wonderful! Knowing I love to garden, they had a lovely plant for me, one I had admired some time ago, as well as a card. I was presented with a bouquet of flowers at the picnic from all the entire union members, which was a bit awkward but a very sweet gesture. In short, it was handled so well.

Comments are closed.