my coworkers knew I was being laid off before I knew

A reader writes:

I found out after I had been formally laid off that at least 2 other employees were notified of my layoff the week prior to the event so they wouldn’t get upset. One was a peer, another a subordinate. I am not sure how many others knew. Is this a common practice?

It’s not uncommon.

Sometimes people need to be in the loop ahead of time for all sorts of reasons — to ensure, for instance, that they’re not planning any time off around that time because they’ll be needed to cover your area, or because they’ll need to plan their workload to accommodate pieces of your projects, or because that knowledge will impact something they’re in the process of working on or planning.

Telling people “so that they won’t be upset” is less common, but not necessarily crazy. It can be helpful to ensure that people understand the situation, why it’s happening, and how it will affect them so that when they hear about it after it’s happened, they have a frame of reference for it and don’t leap to wrong conclusions.

I think you’re probably wondering about this because it’s hard to hear that others knew something so big about you and your job before you did. It’s uncomfortable to think they were working alongside you all that week, knowing of this big (and probably awful) thing that was coming your way, and knowing that you didn’t know. And that sucks. There’s no way around that; it’s a crappy thing to process. But there can also be legitimate reasons for doing it that way, so I would try not to look back and dwell on it too much.

I hope you’re back on your feet soon.

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. HR lady*

    Another example is that one or two people in the IT department often need to know ahead of time, so that they can help with the logistics of the network and the employee’s computer.

    1. Chinook*

      Also count the receptionist in as someone who may be notified before you about a layoff or even a firing, especially if it is a secure building. Reception needs to know whether or not to allow you in if you claim to have lost your pass (though I usually figured it out when the Office Manager asked for a taxi chit for someone during the day and looked sad while asking).

        1. Chinook*

          They did at this one office because bus passes were one of our benefits and they didn’t feel right about making someone wait for a bus during the day, especially since they don’t run as often, or at all if a commuter one, during non-peak hours. If sick, they also sent us home in a cab. Since parking stalls downtown cost atleast $600/month (2nd highest price in N. America), they knew most of us didn’t drive in.

        2. Esra*

          My mom was a corporate receptionist and this was pretty common. They offered people taxi chits in case they felt too upset to drive or didn’t want to take public transit etc.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s quite nice. I’ve driven in a too emotional state once and, in retrospect, it was pretty dangerous. And no one like crying on the bus.

          2. KayDay*

            That’s a nice gesture–it’s really something that won’t make a big difference to the company (assuming they aren’t firing 50%+ of their workforce) but really makes a big difference to the (ex-)employee.

            1. Chinook*

              Even if they were laying off 50% of the workforce, I think it would still be reasonable to do and should be included in the price of laying someone off. When you consider that not everybody is guaranteed to have a way home in the middle of the day and there could be a blizzard blowing outside, it would seem extra mean to make someone wander the streets when they are newly unemployed.

          3. FreeThinkerTX*

            What nice companies. Unfortunately, I’ve never worked for any businesses that were that thoughtful. About 10 years ago I was part of a layoff where all the remote sales people were let go. All of us – but one – had to meet the new VP of Sales at our local airports, ostensibly for a “territory review” meeting. But after the first meeting, that sales person called all of the rest of us so we knew what was up.

            The one exception was a guy in the Pacific Northwest who had been with the company the longest and had helped customize a big portion of the code (it was a software company). Apparently they didn’t trust him, because they told him there was an emergency meeting being called at Corporate in Raleigh, NC, and he needed to flight out immediately. He took an overnight flight so that he could be in the Raleigh office first thing in the morning. He went to the designated conference room and found only the HR person, who had his walking papers. She took his cell phone, his laptop, and his company credit card. . . and told him to find his own way back home — clear across the country!!* No taxi chit for him.

            No surprise, the company went under within 9 months after all this happened.

            *This is the one and only situation where I’ve wanted to ask, “Is this legal?” :-)

        3. Mike C.*

          It makes sense if the person is part of a carpool or uses mass transit which doesn’t run in the middle of the day.

      1. De Minimis*

        My outfit had people getting a phone call from a partner to meet them in their office, then you’d go in and see them waiting with the HR person. It always reminded me of that scene in Goodfellas when Joe Pesci gets whacked.

        We had company laptops to deal with, had to make arrangements for outstanding charges on the company AMEX and any other remaining items, and also there was a building access badge that they had to collect. I often wondered what would happen if someone just happened to have forgotten it that day.

        1. Natalie*

          Those badges can usually be deactivated remotely, but for various reasons it’s better to get them back. For one thing, they’re not cheap.

        1. Ruffingit*

          LOL! Nope, I had to as well. I live in a major US city where having a car is a must because of the size of the city and because mass transit sucks. So taking taxis is not done that much here. I could guess what a taxi chit was from context, but I still Googled it.

        2. Chinook*

          Not at all. I had never heard of the term before I started being the one to hand them out. It is like a prepaid card for taking a taxi that ensures the cab ride is paid for by the company. My company treated them like cash (because they are essentially a signed, blank cheque) so we had to log who took one. It was great because they would give them to us if we worked late or had a staff event that involved alcohol.

          1. Jessa*

            No we had them years ago, although we had a car service on call (a phoned taxi) at an import house I worked at. Any time we had a holiday party or something I had to arrange cars for our guests and employees who needed it (it was in NYC.) Also when my mother died, the manager called the car company to take me home (I’d taken the train that day not my car because I didn’t have uni after (I only drove on school nights, because my garage space was near to NYU.))

            Never occurred to them not to do that for me when it happened.

        3. Calibrachoa*

          We call ’em “vouchers” instead of chits over here so I was a wee bit confused there, too…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here. My doctor’s office provided me with one when I had a procedure that required sedation in an outpatient facility across town–there was no one to drive me there or home.

            1. Jessa*

              OH yes and I’ve gotten them when I was at the ER or had been admitted and my husband had to go to work, so I had no transportation upon discharge from hospital. A lot of surgery centres and hospitals have that arrangement for taxis for patients who cannot get home alone and would not be safe taking a bus (anaesthesia, was ill, etc.)

    1. KarenT*

      This. I don’t understand it but its true. After people are laid off at my company we are all supposed to pretend they never existed. You get blank looks from upper management when you dare speak their names…

  2. The Editor*

    This just happened to me, where I was informed ahead of time. In this particular case, I found out (the person laid off was a peer) because I was heavily involved in training this person, and the layoff impacted my efforts.

    I was grateful to know ahead of time so that I could refocus efforts to other areas. It sucks, but I was glad to know. It also helped me know how to be gracious and helpful to this person when the layoff was made public.

  3. Poe*

    I feel your pain OP! I’ve just been laid off, and it stings to know that while I was chatting with my boss a few weeks ago about how much I enjoyed one of the projects I had been assigned to, and that I was looking forward to a similar project coming down the pipe (maybe that area is where I would focus my career!), he stood there knowing it wasn’t going to happen.

    Getting laid off sucks.

    1. Ruffingit*

      So sorry Poe. It really does suck because it just makes you feel stupid to have been talking to someone about upcoming projects when you now know they already knew your time was short. Not that you are stupid because how could you know? But when you think about it, there’s an embarrassment factor there even though you did nothing wrong. Been there, so I feel for you. I wish you great luck on the job search!

  4. Vicki*

    The more common version (that I’m familiar with) is that no one else knows. No one is told, before or after. People… simply… disappear.

    Given the choice, I think I would prefer the OP’s version. At least _someone_ was told.

    1. Meredith*

      That happened at a place I used to work at, too. I thought they were all on vacation until two weeks later, they still weren’t back. It was awkward.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Happened at my last workplace as well. I was laid off and two weeks later, someone was talking in a meeting about some projects they needed to give me. They had no idea I was gone. And no one corrected them either. This was relayed to me by a co-worker I am still friends with.

        It’s really weird. But then, it’s just one more example of the complete lack of communication in that particular workplace.

        1. Felicia*

          This happened to me as well – no one knew but my manager, and i wasn’t really given time to mention it. But it had also happened several times to my coworkers in the months prior. One day someone would be there, and the next day they wouldn’t , and 2-3 weeks later someone would ask where they went and that person (and no one else) was told they were laid off. I’d rather not know before about other people, personally, unless it directly affected my work, but it’d be nice to be informed afterwards, especially if you’d interacted with them. It was especially weird when they’d say “see you tomorrow!” as they were leaving, and then you never saw them again.

    2. Rana*

      That happened to me. They laid me off, told no one, and realized a week later that they needed me to help with a major project they’d forgotten I was essential for (I came back as a contractor at twice the hourly rate). None of my coworkers had even realized I’d been laid off; they thought I’d been on vacation or something.

      (And thus were rather mystified when I became a bit shirty about being expected to attend the big party being thrown for another coworker who was leaving voluntarily for another job. Sigh, that place. Loved my bosses, loved the work, but the institution and upper management was seriously effed up.)

      1. Rana*

        (I should add that the “no one” included my two bosses – hence the alarm regarding the big project and my absence.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          Serves them right to have to have you come back at twice the hourly rate as a contractor. I must know more of this story. I’d love to hear the groveling that took place when they realized they had to ask you back. I am sure that was an awkward conversation on their parts.

          1. Rana*

            Alas, there wasn’t too much groveling, as I needed the money, and while the upper management (well, primarily the VP and her support staff) were idiots, I liked both of my supervisors and didn’t want to leave them to pick up the pieces of a mess neither of them had created.

            Mostly, though, I was just irritated by the whole thing, and it confirmed that I was better off no longer working there.

    3. Mike C.*

      I worked at a place like that, and it was creepy as all get out. It’s like the person never existed and the owners would give you a terrible look if you mentioned their name in front of them.

      1. LPBB*

        I always joked that it was like Soviet Russia when the purged officials would be airbrushed out of photos.

    4. Ruffingit*

      At my last workplace there were so many people coming in and out all the time (turnover was ridiculous) with no one being informed about who worked there and who didn’t, that one day I saw someone in the office and asked “Who’s the new guy?” Turns out it was the Chinese food delivery guy.

  5. koppejackie*

    They wanted to tell you. They really did. They just couldn’t.

    I’ve been there. I knew about my old team before they did. Every time I saw them for those two weeks, I felt SO bad.

    Anyway, I hope you land soon. Take care.

    1. Chinook*

      I want to reiterate that just because they didn’t give you a heads up didn’t mean that they didn’t want to.

      And sorry about the layoff. It sucks.

    2. KarenT*

      I have nothing but sympathy for the OP because that’s tough.

      I also have a lot of sympathy for the peer and subordinate. It’s really awful to know a co-worker is about to be laid off and not be able to tell them. You get a pang in your stomach every time you see that person.

    3. Jazzy Red*

      Our VP of Production hired the cute young receptionist as his executive assistant, and she texted all her friends telling them who was going to be laid off before it happened! And he did nothing about it – until a group went to HR and complained about her lack of confidentiality and professionalism. She wasn’t fired, but she did have to go back to her former job, and was let go in the next round of layoffs.

      I *never* want to know ahead of time if someone else is getting laid off. I wouldn’t be able to face anyone knowing that.

    4. Judy*

      I’m in a similar situation right now. I have cross-functional team members from several countries and several engineering disciplines. The local management from one country has asked for their team to be taken off our project, as of July 1. They made the request in March or so. We received confirmation mid-May that we couldn’t keep them on the project until completion in October. But they haven’t told the 3 guys that they won’t be able to keep on my project. So I’m answering questions and having team meetings and 1-on-1’s with these guys, knowing that in 2 weeks, they’ll not be doing this project any more.

      I just had a discussion with my boss about when they were going to be told. I’m pretty sure they don’t know, as I’m fairly close with one of them, and I think he’d ask me if something was up. I’m very frustrated.

      Note, this change local management is asking for will effectively “demote” these engineers, as they are working on a global project for me, and will be now working on regional only projects. The projects last for 8-12 months, and one of the guys has been on my team for several projects. We’ve had face to face meetings on 4 continents. I can’t imagine any of them will be happy with moving back to a regional role.

  6. ThursdaysGeek*

    If you think about it, it sucks for the people who are told, too. That has happened to my husband once (he was in management), and he had to keep quiet about it for a week. It was horrible knowing, having to treat people like everything is fine.

    Personally, I think layoffs should be more open all around.

    1. AmyNYC*

      “Personally, I think layoffs should be more open all around.” THIS
      If I’m asked to give 2 weeks if I plan to leave, is it that unreasonable to ask for the same from my employer?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In fairness, if they’re giving at least 2 weeks severance, it’s in some respects equivalent to 2 weeks notice on the employee’s side. Not emotionally, of course, but I did want to throw that out there.

      2. Natalie*

        I presume part of the logic is to avoid possible bad behavior on the part of the departing employee. My company owns a factory building, and when the prior tenant went bankrupt and laid everyone off the employees knew about it way ahead of time. They trashed the building. Unfortunately, if they were hoping to damage their employer they were unsuccessful – since the company had gone through liquidation bankruptcy, we couldn’t recover the cost of the damages from them.

        That said, I’d be curious to know how common vandalism and so forth actually is after layoffs – I could certainly imagine that these decisions are driven more by horror stories than they are by data.

        1. De Minimis*

          I guess they want to avoid even the potential of bad behavior.

          It’s also probably tough on morale, especially if it’s an environment where other layoffs may happen in the near future, so they figure it’s better to just have the sudden disappearance. I know in my case, they did not even want to admit they were doing layoffs at all at that point, so they had an interest in keeping things quiet.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          People can do even more damage with a computer. When I temped as an admin in the IT department, I found that HR’s procedure was to inform security and IT, and their computer and phone access was terminated while they were being told. When they got back to their desks, there was a security person by their desks to make sure nothing bad happened. You never know what an angry person might do.

          1. De Minimis*

            I still had computer access [had to report time for my severance period] but the HR person sat next to me while I worked on it. I would not have been allowed to send a final e-mail or do anything else like that.

            I guess the decision to involve security depended on the HR person and on how the employee behaved. I know one of the other HR people made a big production out of having security escort people from the building, thankfully mine really tried to make things look normal.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            Unless you’re a high level IT admin, I don’t believe you can do more damage on a computer. That’s what backups are for. As a geek, there is nothing I could destroy on my computer or the network except my own work that hasn’t been checked in, and in a layoff, that won’t be checked in anyway.

            On the other hand, the ONLY time I’ve heard of someone destroying property at a company I’ve worked at was a city government, when the person departing had two weeks to quietly destroy paper records that didn’t have backups.

            1. De Minimis*

              I think at my old job you could mainly just do embarrassing things like send rude e-mails to clients, staff, etc. If someone wanted to cross the line into illegal behavior, they had access to a lot of confidential information such as client financial statements, old tax returns, etc.

              But I don’t think people had the ability to do anything electronically other than create some headaches for co-workers [who weren’t the people to be angry at.]

          3. Windchime*

            In past jobs, being “laid off” was a temporary thing, and you’d usually get called back to work when business picked back up. I notice people here tend to use it interchangeably with getting let go, or being fired.

            At my place of employement, we don’t lay people off–they are permanently let go. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen). When it happens for bugetary reasons, the person being let go is notified weeks ahead of time. But when someone is fired, they are called into the office and told. While they are in the office, their network and computer access is being disabled, as well as their security badge. Most people in our IT department have way too much access to servers, etc, to allow for the possibility of sabotage.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Typically laid off means your job is being eliminated. (Whereas being fired means you’re being let go for cause.) There are industries/companies where you might be called back after being laid off, but it’s not the norm.

        3. Susan*

          Not vandalism of company property, but I know that at one of my jobs someone scratched the F-word on the hood of a random person’s car on the day of a big round of layoffs.

        4. V*

          My dad once got laid off, but was kept as an “on call” employee for about a month. (He wasn’t supposed to come in unless they told him, but he was still getting paid and still considered a real employee on paper). His official severance didn’t start after that month was over.

          This was the best way I have seen a company handle it… Reason being… You are still giving the employee the opportunity to include an active job on their resume while job hunting, and you don’t have to worry about them retaliating against the company.

        5. Lily*

          At least in some parts of Europe, employees get between 6 weeks and 3 months notice and they can still work, but I don’t think employers are too surprised if the laid off / fired employee suddenly become ill for the rest of their notice period.

      3. SerfinUSA*

        My contract specifies I think 20-30 days notice of a layoff. Most people who get a notice spend the time using up leave and job hunting. I guess they assume there won’t be significant looting of ‘stuff’.

        Then there is a bump clause that allows me to force someone else out of their job based on a number of factors. I can’t imagine doing that to someone, but it’s happened to a friend here.

      4. Lora*

        Two jobs ago, the company gave not just two weeks but two months’ notice to people who were getting laid off. They also got 6 months of severance, more if they had been with the company for over 5 years or were above a certain pay grade. The people getting laid off didn’t mind much, they spent most of the time doing phone interviews and searching LinkedIn–much easier to network while you’re still sitting next to your colleagues and the company is hosting networking events for professional groups and bringing in HR consultants to help people brush up their resumes.

        The crummy part was how they chose who was getting laid off, because they’d tell the whole department, “we’re cutting X%” months in advance, then made us compete against each other to see who got to stay, and the competitions were not especially fair. Some people had just been transferred halfway across the country, sold their houses and bought new ones, only to be told within months or weeks of the transfer that they were getting the axe. But once people knew their fate it wasn’t so bad, many people even volunteered happily for the severance package. I think they gave bonuses for people taking early retirement, too, those guys had some rockin’ retirement parties.

        1. Ruffingit*

          The competition thing sucks, but 6 months of severance and two months of notice is awesome.

    2. LPBB*

      One of my former managers was told that TPTB were actively trying to close our satellite location and all staff would be laid off and then told she couldn’t share that info with any of us. She carried it around for a month, but after a few weeks of not being able to eat or sleep she begged TPTB to be able to tell us.

      Which she did and which we all appreciated because we had been existing in a climate of uncertainty for a while without any satisfactory answers from HQ. When the inevitable happened 6 or 7 months later, we were also much better prepared to deal with it.

      Anyway OP, I’m really sorry it happened to you and I really hope you find a new job soon.

  7. Jennifer*

    I got to figure it out when the invites for the Christmas party were going around….FUN TIMES THERE.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Oh that is just sad Jennifer. So sorry. I know someone who was a manager and was laid off the day of the Christmas party. So he didn’t appear that evening at the party and it was a huge downer for everyone. I thought they could have waited until the next day to fire the guy, geeze. He wasn’t a bad person or doing anything they needed to get rid of him for immediately. It wouldn’t have been a problem to wait a day. From what I was told, the atmosphere at that party was kind of somber because of that.

      1. theotherjennifer*

        that happened at my last place. They laid off a guy two days before Christmas – we just had the Christmas party, his 3 kids were in the office. It was just shi**y.

        when they laid me off, they did it 3 days after Christmas. awesome.

        1. LPBB*

          A former co-worker of mine was let go late afternoon on either New Year’s Eve or the day before (it was a long time ago, I can’t quite remember).

          Whooo! Happy New Year to you :(

      2. wowjustwow*

        I was let go a few days before Christmas. At my exit interview my boss was upset–only because “now I have nobody to work New Year’s”. (her exact quote)

        1. Chinook*

          I woudl have been tempted to respond to that boss by pointing out that I am quite happy to get New Year’s Eve off!

          1. Chinook*

            I would like to point out that, while my brain realizes that it should always be “l” before “d” in words like “would”, my fingers just don’t seem to understand.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      One of my recent co-workers got laid off ON his 30th anniversary with the company. He got the email from HR and, before reading it, thought it was about his anniversary presentation and party.


  8. ChristineSW*

    When I was laid off, from what I could tell, no one else (aside from my supervisor and the organization’s ED) knew before I was told. (It’s hard to think about because I remember when I told the women I ate lunch with, one of them looked like she was going to cry. That’s always going to stay with me; we are still friends to this day).

    I agree with Alison and the others. At the very least, I would think that key people–e.g. IT & HR–would need to be informed before the to-be-laid-off employee, particularly if the effective date is immediate (that day or within a few days).

    I have also seen it happen the way Vicki describes it–people just disappear and you don’t realize they’re gone until you try to contact them. This happens where my husband works all the time (large telecommunications company), though usually, he’s aware that a mass layoff is about to occur.

    1. ChristineSW*

      Ahhh where are my manners!? Wishing the OP a quick and painless (well, as painless as possible!) job search.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      When I got laid off from my favorite job, I thought my boss was going to give me a raise, because I’d been there one year. BIG surprise to me. Yeah, I cried. I was so happy there.

  9. Anonymous*

    Yeah, I knew in advance too that a colleague was being laid off (i.e., terminated in this case) because they wanted to offer me her job and have me go to training while she was still in the position, all wihtout her knowing. The day she found out was her last day on the job.

  10. De Minimis*

    I’ve been where the OP has been. I’m hoping things work out.

    I agree it must have been very tough for the co-workers. I know in my case all the preparations were made at a higher level, so I just became one of those people who left for lunch one day and never came back. I did e-mail one close friend I had there, and also thanked my immediate supervisor.

  11. P*

    Props to OP for using the wording “is this a common practice?” in place of “is this legal?” – this feels like a question that might cause someone to take defense like that but this person seems to have a good (and realistic) attitude about it.

    Best of luck in your search!

    1. KayDay*

      Yes, while I don’t doubt that in some of the “is this legal” questions the OPs are really asking about the law/ability to sue, I think that many others are really trying to ask “is this normal/standard practice/common/fair” vs. actually codified in the law.

  12. KarenT*

    This is just my opinion and I’m not married to it, but I’m not buying this whole they were told on advance so they would be upset thing.
    Why would telling them in advance make it easier? Didn’t that just move their reaction up a week plus add the secret-keeping burden?

      1. Coraline*

        Does make you wonder, doesn’t it? Of course, I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to do something that upsets people, you should also have to deal with the fact that they’re upset. Actions and consequences, you know.

      2. KayDay*

        I agree–if they’re going to be sad, telling them earlier won’t fix that. But it might relieve some (not all) of the work-relate stress that would come with any sort of sudden change (e.g. “OMG, I don’t know anything about project Z, since let-go-lady was working on it, and there’s a deliverable due in one week!)

    1. RubyJackson*

      We went through a massive layoff last year and management told us about two months beforehand that they were going to restructure the organization. Our department was informed that we were a target for deep cuts. We had *two months* to worry about our jobs and look for others. It was extremely stressful and unpleasant. We ended up losing half our team.

      1. One of the Annes*

        This was the situation at my organization, too. I saw having that amount of advance notice as a good thing, though.

        I was actually pretty impressed with how transparent management was throughout the whole process.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m thinking that it wasn’t about people being sad; it was about not wanting to admit to OP that the colleagues were being staffed up with her work as they prepared to lay her off.

      It’s not the most believable thing to say, but I can see how they’d get there.

  13. Annie The Mouse*

    Best of luck to you, OP. I hope you find something much better quickly. The same thing happened to me in 1995, and it was awful, both for me and the person (a good friend) who replaced me. I believed in the organization’s mission, so I secretly trained my replacement at night at home. I got laid off in July, and my replacement quit on Christmas Day of that same year. By that time, the Board of Directors had had enough of management’s antics, and early in the new year the place was suddenly under new management!

  14. HR NavelGaze*

    I do understand it’s necessary to inform some people beforehand, but I don’t agree with a full week. As someone mentioned, that’s not fair to the employees that had to deal with it for that long. A day or two beforehand should be sufficient.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      I there’s no real way to know that without understanding the workings of the organization. However, I think that the “so they wouldn’t be upset” thing is B.S.
      And I also think that it’s more shitty to the person who got laid off and had to hear that people knew for a whole week than it is for the people who had to keep a secret that wasn’t drastically affecting their finances and life.

  15. Sabrina*

    Oh yes that sucks. This happened to me. That day everyone seemed to be acting a little weird but it wasn’t until after the fact that I figured out why.

  16. Anonymous*

    Oy, early in my career there was a big round of layoffs at my company at the time, and one of the people I worked with closely was the group to be laid off, as announced by leadership. Only problem was that she was on vacation. She called me a few days later because she’d heard there were cuts, and I didn’t know what to do so I lied and told her everything in our department was fine. When she came back, she was immediately pulled aside and then gone by the end of the day. I STILL feel terrible about that, to this day. I’m not sure how I’d handle that differently now though.

    1. RubyJackson*

      You know, whenever I go away on vacation, I always tell the house sitter, “Don’t bother me, even if the house burns down.” Why? Because there is nothing to be done about it after the fact and it would ruin my vacation.

      If you had told her the truth, which wasn’t your place to inform her anyway, she would have cut her vacation short, and come home. For what?

      Forgive yourself.

      1. Chinook*

        I have the same attitude about bad news that I can’t affect (or is it effect?). It sounds horrible, but I told my DH to make sure that his next of kin notification (both for the military and as a police officer) notes not to wake me up if he is already dead because it will be my last good night’s sleep for a long time. If he was still breathing, it is another story completely, of course.

        If you know life is going to be crappy for the next little while and learnign about it won’t change anythign, why on earth would you bring the crappy news to them sooner? Let someone enjoy what happiness they have.

        1. One of the Annes*


          & you were right to use “affect.”

          The verb “affect” means “to have an effect on.”

          The verb “effect” means “to bring about.”

          (Yes, I am quite anal about this stuff. Why do you ask?)

        2. A Reader*

          Great answer Chinook! I hope people do think about these things the next time they feel compelled to be the town crier of bad news.

    2. Ruffingit*

      That’s a tough one, but I think you handled it fine. Your lie allowed her to enjoy the rest of her vacation and it’s quite possible that once she returned, management may have changed their minds about laying her off, etc. You couldn’t possibly know. It’s better to let her be informed by those whose job it is to inform her. But I get feeling bad about the lie too. Tough place to be in.

  17. OP*

    Thanks for all the comments. This actually makes me feel much better about the situation. I can understand the point of view of management trying to make a seamless transition through this period. Through this process, you can choose to be a victim or a volunteer and I choose the latter.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Good for you OP! I will say this though – let yourself have some grieving time. It’s OK to sit down with some ice cream or whatever and say “Man, it sucks to be laid off.” Drown your sorrows a bit in whatever way works for you (that isn’t illegal or dangerous) :)

      Then, dust off the resume and get back out there! I was laid off in April so I know how you’re feeling. Being strong and positive is a good thing, but so is being bitter and grieving…but only for a small amount of time. Basically, just saying to let yourself have the sad downtime. It’s an important part of being able to move forward later.

      1. OP*

        Grieving is the perfect description for what I feel. I invested alot of time and myself into that position. I worked very hard to finally get to an administrative position. I can say that I feel better each day, but I still feel lost not going to work.

        I should give myself time to heal. A career is a big part of one’s identity and losing it causes a lot of pain. Thanks so much for your kind and wise advice.

  18. Anonymous*

    I worked for a major airline almost twenty years ago and they were preparing for an epic layoff. I knew that the layoff was happening, because I worked in HR and had to help do prep work. I also knew my job was at risk, but didn’t know any other specifics.

    The day before announcements were to happen, a coworker came to me and asked me to help with the actual document merge (adding the names and other specific elements to the template notification letter). I was more skilled at it than he was, so I was happy to help.

    You can phone this in: I found out the next day that I had merged my own letter (among about 600 others). He knew, of course, and felt horrible but I was the only one with the expertise.

    Eh. What are you gonna do?

    1. Ruffingit*

      Wow, that falls under incredibly ironic for me. You were the only one with the expertise to do the job of laying yourself off? I have to laugh at that, but not in a it’s funny way. More of a “Wow, how tragic” way. :)

  19. Carrie*

    I’ve heard from friends in nonprofits that this is becoming more and more common, especially when the higher level managers of nonprofits are determined by the Board of Directors to no longer be a good fit for the organization. Low-level support staff that you wouldn’t expect would be considered needing to know are now being told that the head honcho is on the way out. This may come as a surprise, but in a small non-profit, the support staff carry out important job duties and usually need to start notifying payroll, tying up lose ends with canceling benefits, drawing up forms for severance, finalizing personnel file, canceling parking permits, putting together COBRA forms, alerting security that the CEO will be leaving the organization — all under the orders of the Board of Directors, of course.

    The help of talented younger staff people really help ease the transition when the CEO learns that they will have the opportunity to go into early retirement or pursue other opportunities. It may seem heartless, but it’s just a procedure that a lot of organizations that are short-staffed are beginning to implement. I just think it asks a lot of these young employees (usually in their early 20s) to “sneak” around while the Board gets ready to fire the CEO.

    My cousin who worked at a really great nonprofit was told by the Board to go ahead and cancel the CEO’s company credit card and car service account. Well, the CEO wanted took a donor out to lunch and called frantically, saying her card was declined! It put her in a really hard situation.

  20. Denise*

    This happened to me a few years ago. My co-workers were told about a month before I was laid off. One of them couldn’t hold the beans and emailed me to tell me she was sorry, but thought I should know. I actually wasn’t upset that she told me. I was more upset that everyone else knew except me. I’ve also had the opposite happen; where I was let go and no one was told. It’s a frustrating situation either way.

  21. Sandra*

    I got laid off while on a vacation overseas- totally ruined the rest of the vacation. Company told me that since I was in a beautiful place it would make the news easier to bear. It didn’t. At least they did give me a nice severance package and recommendations, but forgot to tell me about that until I returned.

    1. BellaLuna*

      Being in a beautful place (a vacation you paid for) makes the news easier to bear. Comments like that make me wonder if people think before the speak or if they live on another planet. That is SOO lame.

  22. BellaLuna*

    My husband was laid of last year. He ran a small IT dept and security met him at his office door and escorted him out. They took his cell, computer and packed his office for him.

    I was laid off from my last job after 15 yrs. My mgr called me on a Tue morning to tell me. I was given 90 days to interview for any open internal positions. I had no idea it was coming but after thinking about overnight I notified my mgr that I would wrap up my projects and depart on Fri. I viewed it as a once in a life time opportunity to spend time with my young children as my severance, accrued vacation time and umeployment totaled 50 wks pay. I had been working on a few complicated deals and returned to assist on several occasions as the reps called and needed my expertise. I loved my job and my colleagues and it hurt that my mgr had taken my position as he didn’t have the experience to do the job. I think it would have been really difficult for me if I had discovered that the people I worked with on a daily basis had known ahead of me.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Right on for having a good attitude about it and looking at it as a positive! When you returned to help with various projects, did you do so as a contractor or consultant or what? I hope you charged high rates for your expertise. It would serve them right having moved a manager into your position who wasn’t qualified.

  23. Elizabeth West*

    *hugs* for OP. That sucks. I hope you find something soon.

    I’ve been laid off three times. Once, my division closed, followed shortly by the company. Second one, they cut jobs. Third and most recent, more cuts. That one sucked–I went to lunch, and when I came back, my coworker was leaving and then my phone rang. 0_0 >_< They called me in the HR office and then my boss walked me back to my computer and waited there while I packed up, and then walked me out. I did get six weeks severance, so that was nice. And they let me have a couple of plants that they were going to pitch anyway. Getting fired is much worse, but it still sucks.

    A friend of mine got laid off IN A COMPANY MEETING, in front of everyone. "Sue is leaving us. We've enjoyed working with her and wish her well." NO ONE knew beforehand, not even her!

    1. One of the Annes*

      Holy cow to your friend’s getting laid off in a meeting. Who would think that letting someone go that way was a good idea?

      1. Ruffingit*

        HOLY CRAP!!! That is horrendous. I can’t even imagine. And, they make it sound like it was Sue’s choice to leave and they’re just announcing it. GAH!! That is beyond terrible.

  24. snuck*

    I’ve done this – a small team of just a few people, with one interstate telecommuting who wasn’t just underperforming, was no longer able to be supplied anything close to full time workload, so the position was made redundant.

    I advised the very small number of local team mates before I flew to the other state to advise the redundant person (they all had different skill sets – it wasn’t just that they were interstate) – because I had a gut instinct that the person being made redundant was going to blow up. Glad I called that one right – he picked up the telephone in the conference room we were in when I gave him his redundancy notice and abused the co workers in the other state – I couldn’t really do much about it except ask him to terminate the call (and didn’t feel comfortable reaching around him physically to pull a conference phone out of his hands).

    The locals interstate were very ethical people and not impressed with me telling them before I left, but glad I’d given them the heads up (late on a Friday, with the interstate meeting first thing Monday) because if not they’d have copped that call without any understanding of what was happening. Of course I could only do that in a team I knew I could trust to maintain confidentiality (or the trip to the other state would have been wasted) and because they trusted me too.

  25. Helena T*

    I think this just happened at work. Thursday, Supervisor 1 & I were talking about at-will states– and she asked me something to the effect of, “If [Upper-Level Supervisor] fired all of us, could [ULS’s boss] override that?”

    I said, given the way that we’re set up, yes, that could very well happen. ULS’s boss could re-hire the fired employee(s) AND fire ULS.

    Friday, Supervisor 2 was fired, and somehow, I can’t help but wonder if Supervisor 1 was told in advance.

  26. anon-2*

    At one place, there was a layoff coming up. I was called into the office and was told that I was not going to be affected by it. However, I was also advised that if I discussed this with anyone, I would go into “the other category”.

    I was also told not to discuss this with my manager – who was a good friend, too. With a few days to go, one of my best friends mentioned that he was concerned because he didn’t know if he was going to be let go or not (he was).

    There’s also the consideration that a person might be “on the list” – and is pulled OFF the list owing to changes — someone else leaves, and a place is available; management has a change of opinion about an individual who is “on the list”; and last but not least, someone comes out of a stupor and realizes if a particular individual is let go, it could seriously impact the operation.

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