my manager told us we were going to be laid off — but she was wrong

A reader writes:

The division I work in has four people, plus my manager. Three months ago, my manager called us into a meeting. She told us the company would be going through some changes and restructuring due to financial issues and that layoffs were coming in the spring. She said she had found out this information accidentally and no one knew she had found out. She swore us all to secrecy because the information wasn’t public and said we couldn’t tell anyone under any circumstances. She wanted us to know so we could start looking for jobs before the layoffs came because we would likely be laid off the same day we were told and promised to give us good references and time off to go to interviews.

One of my coworkers made plans to move back to her hometown in another state to take a job. Another decided to postpone proposing to his girlfriend and moving in with her because he got a job which pays less and he can no longer afford higher rent, to save for a ring, or for planning the kind of wedding they want to have. The other one got a job which pays only half of what this job paid and his wife had to return to work part-time even though she just had a baby and wanted to stay home. I found a new job but it only pays 75% of what this job paid and I had to find a new apartment and sell my car to get money to terminate my lease, which I had to pay off in full so my credit wouldn’t be affected. My new job is also a 45-minute train ride away from my apartment as opposed to a 10-minute drive like this job. All of us took lower paying jobs and made changes to our lives because we couldn’t afford to be without a paycheck or risk running out of unemployment before we found something at our current pay.

During my last week, there was a company-wide meeting. The executive management was there and they said the meeting was about the changes the company would go through. There was no mention of layoffs, and when question time came one of my coworkers asked about it. We were told there were not going to be any layoffs because the other changes would save enough to accomplish what the company wanted.

After the meeting, my manager swore she had information that layoffs were coming. She ended up calling her manager. She had found stuff in the printer from him about the company plan and there were layoffs mentioned all over that paperwork. She had put it back and called the meeting to tell us, keeping the fact she saw the papers a secret. But her manager told said it was just a generic company contingency plan for hardships and not what the company decided to do. He said the paperwork dealt with several money-saving scenarios and layoffs and our division closing was just one of them.

I tried to rescind my resignation from HR, but they wouldn’t do it because they said the hiring process had already been started and they had already arranged for temporary coverage from other departments once we were gone. One of my coworkers had already left and started his new job, one was a day away from her move, and my other coworker’s wife had already gone back to work. There was no way for any of us to keep our jobs.

My (now-ex) manager says that she was only trying to help. We had all worked for her for between four and seven years and she had never done anything to make us not trust her. She hasn’t apologized or shown any kind of remorse. Are we right to be mad at her? All of us took lower paying jobs and made a bunch of changes to our lives because of what she told us. I start my new job in a few days but I can’t help but be mad at her.

This is a perfect illustration of why when people stumble across information like your manager did, most of the time I advise them to keep it to themselves. There are just too many ways for the information to be wrong.

Should you be mad at her? Well, she did what she thought was right, and she sounds like she was motivated by wanting to help you. If things had gone differently — if you had ended up being laid off after all — you probably would have been grateful for the warning. You could also look at this the other way around: If you were laid off and found out that she had known about it months in advance and hadn’t warned you, would you be upset about that?

But yes, she really messed up by sharing information as if it were certain fact when she didn’t actually know that. The type of print-outs that she found can very often look pretty damn certain, so I can see why she ended up where she did. Still, though, she could have at least given you the full story (“I found this on the printer, I don’t have confirmation from anyone, and it’s possible it’s not the final plan”) and let you make up your own mind about how to interpret it.

Although if she handled it that way — if she just strictly relayed what she had found without putting her own characterization on it and added the caveat that she didn’t know if it was accurate — would you have still started job searching and ultimately resigned? If so, that’s worth factoring into your thinking too.

But yes, it’s awful that she hasn’t apologized or taken any responsibility for what happened.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 490 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Manager*

    Oof! I agree with AAM that the manager was acting in the best interest of her team and should’ve added caveats that she didn’t know layoffs were certain and people should make their own decisions. BUT, the manager still should be reprimanded by the company for creating such havoc. She didn’t have the clearance (or authority) to sensationalize and disturb her team. I hope she got a written warning. She definitely needs coaching.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      Ooooof indeed. I don’t think OP can do much in their position to make sure the manager gets her just deserts, but hopefully the manager receives some sort of reprimand from the higher-ups.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes. I believe her intentions were in the best interest of everyone, but she definitely should have caveated the news with the info that it wasn’t certain. Then maybe all of her employees would not have taken such lower paying jobs. They may have kept looking longer – long enough to realize the layoffs weren’t coming.

      That said #1, she should definitely apologize for giving you incorrect info even done with the best of intentions. #2, she should definitely be reprimanded. She not only hurt you individuals, but the company who has lost an entire office which they have to replace and train. #3, She never should have shared this unsubstantiated info with you in the first place.

      1. Anonymoose*

        I don’t understand why she didn’t just immediately go to her own boss. Can you explain what the benefit is to keeping this knowledge (both finding his paperwork – it was his, right? – and getting his take) from her boss. Even if he lied and said that everything was fine because it was too early to make those decisions, at least she would have done SOME due diligence and could feel confident that she wasn’t possibly ruining her team’s employment stability. Otherwise this is a simple case of the sky falling, and we all know how that tends to go.

        I feel so bad for her staff…

        1. KellyK*

          That’s a good question. The details of the plan she saw seem pretty heartless—no severance, last day being the day the layoffs were announced. And she believed it was legit. That tells me that she didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in the management above her to do the right thing, or might have been worried about repercussions to her for even bringing it up. That’s at least one reason. I agree that talking to her boss is what she probably should have done. Failing that, she should have at least caveated that she didn’t know any of this for certain.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Seriously. At the very least she should have gone to bat for the Op to be able to stay. And the others if possible. But Op says ex-boss now so something must’ve happened.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m pretty surprised she hasn’t been disciplined (or maybe she has, but we don’t know about it because OP had to leave?).

        This is really really awful.

    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I’m also wondering how no one else at the company didn’t question why an entire team was leaving? Especially since it sounds like they’d had low turnover previously. Just seems like the kind of thing that the manager’s manager would have caught.

    4. Mike C.*

      and should’ve added caveats that she didn’t know layoffs were certain and people should make their own decisions

      Absolutely this. If you’re going to do someone the favor of giving them intel, you should do them the favor of including context and certainty.

    5. Abby*

      This is an example of why companies don’t tell people that they are considering layoffs. Most companies try to do anything to avoid them but have an obligation to look at every scenario.

      Frankly, I think HR is being an ass. They should let you rescind your resignation since you acted on bad information. Saying that the hiring process has already been started is just an excuse.

      And if I was the manager of the manager that gave this information, she would be disciplined. Clearly she can’t be trusted. She gave her staff information that she knew was confidential and that she did not have the judgment to consider whether it was accurate or correct. She may have had their best interests at heart but she showed really poor judgement.

      1. Jady*

        I think HR is the biggest wrong-doing in the entire situation. Their excuses are awful.

      2. Observer*

        Frankly, I think HR is being an ass. They should let you rescind your resignation since you acted on bad information. Saying that the hiring process has already been started is just an excuse.

        I was thinking that, too. Unless they meant that they had actually extended an offer to someone.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Seriously, you know what it takes to stop a hiring process? Half an hour to take down your postings (depending on how many sites you use it could be done in minutes), and another half hour to an hour to send TBNT letters to your candidates letting them know the position is no longer available (depending on how many candidates and where you are in the process as far as interviews go – longer if you have done multiple rounds of interviews and need to actually call people to let them know voice-to-voice). That’s it. You’re done. Recruiting process halted.

        That’s really, truly awful of them to go with that kind of “strict following of arbitrary rules” attitude re OP’s resignation. ESPECIALLY given the context! Like, if someone resigned because they hated their job, but then tried to rescind it, my team would want to sit down with the person and talk it over a bit to make sure they’re not going to just re-resign (and possibly re-un-resign, etc.) again in a few weeks because there are unresolved issues happening that we’re not aware of, before we made the decision to allow them to stay. But if you’re talking about someone who had been told their job was going away so they resigned early in favor of taking a different job, but once they found out that they still had a job they wanted to stay, in that situation our ire would be directed at the manager for putting their staff in that situation. The employee would be more than welcome to stay.

        How do you completely refuse to offer any flexibility to someone in a pretty clear extenuating circumstance? That’s just really messed up.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There are a few possible explanations. One is that they weren’t terribly sad to receive the resignations in the first place. (If you’re not sad to lose someone, it makes sense to say the resignation is final.) Another possibility is that the manager has encouraged them to see it that way, in order to protect herself.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It’s funny, I almost added a caveat to “the employee would be more than welcome to stay – assuming there were no other performance issues at play” but figured it would be irrelevant to the OP’s situation and took it back out.

          2. Purple Dragon*

            I was wondering if they were now overpaid since *all* of them had to take pay cuts and this was a perfect excuse for the company to employ people at lower rates ?

            1. OP*

              We were paid market rate and the job postings listed our pay as the starting pay so it would be the same for our replacements.

              I can only speak for myself but I took the first job I was offered and took steps to cut back in my life because I couldn’t afford to totally be without pay. My boss said we only had 4 months and I didn’t have the luxury of time in my search.

            2. HerNameWasLola*

              I had wondered the same thing. It could be that this was part of the reason they were targeted for layoffs in one version of “the plan.” My experience has been that when significant changes need to be made, there are multiple plans in place. Once this department started resigning, the layoff plan no longer needed to be explored and different type of restructuring plan could take place.

              1. Karen D*

                That’s what I was wondering before I saw OP’s’s update (above)

                At one job, I actually think management slow-leaked the news of impeding layoffs in the hopes that enough people would resign that they’d be able hit their cut target through attrition. And another went the announced-buyout route.

                But OP says that they are filling vacancies and posting the current salaries as starting pay. In that case, I don’t know why they are barred from at least applying for their old jobs.

          3. Lauren*

            Or the manager is right, and layoffs will still happen at some point in the future.

            1. OP*

              My manager was wrong. That’s why everyone is so upset and why I wrote to Alison. I wouldn’t be mad about it if layoffs were actually coming, but they are not.

            2. Stardust*

              I was thinking the very same thing. How often do company’s say “no layoffs coming” and then bam, that changes later on? It might be to soon to tell and layoffs could still be coming. IMO, the OP’s manager handled it wrong even if her intentions were good. But it still doesn’t mean their company won’t have layoffs coming!

        2. Zombii*

          The letter makes it sound like HR contracted some temp workers to fill in during the hiring process, so maybe they don’t want to cancel that contract/pay penalties/lose reputation with the temp agency? Seems like a lower financial loss than going through a whole hiring process and paying temps, but maybe that loss would look more serious on paper.

          And/or they have reasons to want to replace this team anyway, so the whole thing is a happy accident for the company. In which case the manager still screwed up by not managing that before.

          1. OP*

            The people covering are employees from other departments with the company. Their covering is temporary because once the new hires from our jobs they will go back to their regular jobs.

      4. designbot*

        yeah HR is operating on a sunk cost mindset with regards to the search, but ignoring the costs they’ve sunk into OP already. If that’s really their reasoning, it’s not good enough.

    6. Lori*

      It could also be that layoffs were decided at the time she heard it and told them. Then the higher-ups decided to change their strategy and do something else instead. This is normal if a company/department is still in planning stages. It can even seem to be the final decision and be changed the next day (seen that done several times!).

      1. OP*

        There were never plans for any layoffs. She was completely wrong about it and that’s why everyone is so upset.

    7. Not Sharing My Name*

      I have worked at places where lay offs were coming. Then when employees started resigning the message delivered from the employer was we were able to come up with a different solution so lay offs were not the solution we decided on and no one is losing their jobs. HR reacted in a similar manner as in this situation. Since your “ex-boss” is not in “trouble” it makes me wonder if you are receiving the “real” story from management.

  2. Aphrodite*

    I’d be insanely furious at her and I’m not sure what I would do. Tattle to upper management and/or about her “talking”? Re-apply as a new applicant–and definitely NOT in her department? Blab it all over the damn company? Post a GlassDoor review and mention her indiscreation by name? More?

    Maybe it would have worked out IF there had been layoffs, but there weren’t. So I will not take that into account. She is a lousy manager.

    1. Anonymoose*

      There’s really nothing one can do, I don’t think. It has all happened. If her boss is smart, he’ll look at her question and the timing of her staff and go ‘hmmm, someone hasn’t learned discretion or due diligence practices’.

    2. INFJ*

      FWIW posting a review on Glassdoor that is about a specific person at the company is against their policy and will be removed if reported.

  3. Kat A.*

    I think the manager was trying to do right by all of you. Her heart was clearly in the right place. She didn’t mean any harm.

    1. KHB*

      I don’t think there’s any reason to think she was trying to do them harm. But harm was done regardless, and it’s reasonable to ask if her handling of the situation is to blame. The road to you-know-where is paved with you-know-what.

    2. Steve*

      She should also show remorse for the mistake. Or at least compassion for the people who were affected.

      Though on the other hand, we’re only getting OP’s side of the story here. Who knows what kind of caveats the manager put into the original warning. And the OP is obviously upset, so, maybe the former manager feels bad and/or is apologizing, but the OP thinks she doesn’t feel any remorse because she’s not falling over herself apologizing or even, somehow, getting the employees reinstated.

      1. OP*

        There were no caveats. She told us point blank that we would be laid off and said our last day would likely be the same day when we told. She said it more than once and was only set straight when she talked to her manager after the meeting. She has also said she doesn’t need to apologize or feel bad because she was trying to help.

        1. Gadfly*

          That last line is where she loses all sympathy for her. Good intentions are nice, but good people also consider impact and deal with actual outcomes.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Yeah. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. She still needs to apologize, because she sent her four underlings to Hell.

        2. KellyK*

          Wow. Any decent person would feel awful that they’d shared incorrect information that had screwed you all over.

          1. tigerStripes*

            Agreed. If someone does something that hurts someone else, even with the best of intentions, the person apologizes.

          2. Sunshine*

            This. I can’t fathom not having any remorse after impacting tbis many lives so drastically. If I were boss’s boss, I’d have to be sold pretty hard to not fire her.

        3. NK*

          This is what makes this all so egregious (and wasn’t as clear in the letter). It’s one thing to say, “I have reason to believe you may be getting laid off but but I don’t have confirmation.” It’s also one thing to get that information from another colleague. But when it’s your manager, who you trust to provide accurate information about your employment status, it feels like a huge misuse of power to give that kind of information without major caveats.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Did she make any efforts to try and save your jobs? Does the rest of management know what she did?

              1. OP*

                She talked to HR but they said it’s policy not to allow people to change their minds once the hiring process has started and they don’t generally allow it even beforehand. I don’t know who else knows besides the 4 of us and her boss.

                1. Gov Worker*

                  Policy my crack. Policy is not law. Given the circumstances, these workers should have been allowed to keep their jobs. It would have benefitted the company too, which would have saved on recruiting costs and eliminated the learning curve for new employees.

                2. jo*

                  That’s a lousy policy that seems like it would cost the company big time–unless they’ll be saving a lot by offering the new hires much lower salaries?

                  I just can’t believe HR wouldn’t jump at the chance to keep a trusted employee over having to hire and train an unknown.

                3. Zombii*

                  Did HR tell you that it’s policy, or did your manager say HR said it’s policy? This is sounding more and more like a manager who wanted a new team but didn’t want to manage anyone out directly. Especially since it’s only the 4 of you, her, and her boss.

                  I am so, so sorry.

        4. Kathleen Adams*

          I would be. So. Mad. Soooooo maaaaaaaad.

          And of *course* she should apologize. Yes, she meant well, but so what? “Well meaning” and “slipshod” are not mutually exclusive terms. She clearly made no attempt to verify this pretty explosive information, and as an experienced manager, she should have known better.

          I’m so sorry, OP.

          1. Gov Worker*

            She made no attempt to verify because she is a gossip monger who thought she had the scoop and couldn’t wait to verify critical information before putting it out there. Hmpf.

        5. #WearAllTheHats*

          I am not as kind as some folks here. If I did this to my team, I wouldn’t be surprised if the exiting team members said something to someone higher up and I would deserve it. I would tell them that is why the lot of you jumped ship.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            I agree. If I’d done something like this, I’d totally deserve some sort of reprimand.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              To clarify, I don’t actually think she should have shared to information unless she had something more to go on than this (and she may have, for all I know). But she should absolutely have made sure she made it clear that her information was not definite, and she did not do that. In fact, according to what the OP said in the letter and downthread, she made it sound like an sure thing, which it was not.

              And that’s wrong. She should feel extremely mortified and guilty – because “guilty” is exactly what she is.

        6. Bend & Snap*

          I’d be out for blood. At minimum, I’d be escalating past HR to get my job back. This is insane.

          1. jo*

            I’d be all over company management to get all four team members back on board–AND give one of them this manager’s job.

        7. SarahKay*

          Wow! that reminds me of an ex, who used to not apologise if he accidentally hurt me – genuine accidents, as in dropping a book that would hit my bare foot, that sort of thing. After two or three times I got mad at him for the lack of apology and he looked totally taken aback and said “But it was an accident”. To which I replied that “I jolly well hope it *was* an accident, but it still hurt and normal people say sorry if they hurt someone, however unintentionally!” He was perfectly fine socially as a rule, he just had this one really odd blind spot.

          But he was just as wrong as your ex boss. However much she was trying to help, she hurt you all badly; the very least she can do is apologise. Ideally, not just apologise, but do everything in her power to help you keep your job.

        8. Cubicles*

          That’s so weird that she apparently cared enough to warn you all when she thought layoffs were imminent, but now that the company has said there would be no layoffs and you’ve all upended your lives for new, lower-paying jobs based on her faulty info, she doesn’t feel bad?

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But there’s a difference between impact and intent. The manager could have good intentions and still have screwed her former reports. It sounds like that’s what happened. A decent person would apologize for the mass chaos they created in others’ lives. It doesn’t speak well of her that she’s retrenching, instead.

    4. Rihanna*

      The road to Hell is paved with the best intentions, and she should have apologized to them all at the very least. Maybe she was too mortified or cowardly to do so.

    5. Not Australian*

      “Her heart was clearly in the right place. She didn’t mean any harm.”

      This is the very definition of ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’, though; it’s a cliche for a reason – because it happens to be true.

    6. Kate*

      There is a reason for the saying “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.”

  4. Jaguar*

    Playing through all the scenarios I can possibly think of, I can’t come up with a situation in which I wouldn’t want my manager to share what she found, although I’d admittedly be pretty pissed if she refused to show remorse afterwards.

    1. Jaguar*

      Really, though, the person to be mad at is whoever printed out stuff about firing people and then didn’t immediately get it from the printer, right?

      1. k*

        Not really. The person printing it was just a generic contingency plan. They probably deal with them all the time, perhaps there were even multiple versions. In their mind it was just some run of the mill thing and had no reason to treat it like a big secret.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          yes, I agree with k. This wasn’t a top secret plan they printed and left laying around. It was a generic contingency plan. Not to mention how many times I have printed something 4 times to no avail and then come in the next morning and there is 4 copies on the copier. Oy.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Generic or not, it was sensitive information (obviously sensitive because people changed jobs over this!), and should not have been left out where anyone could see it.

            This is why I love and adore “secure print,” where you can opt to tell the printer not to print until you are present and input a code. That way, there is no risk of it being seen by anyone else. People in administrative, HR, medical and other positions that deal with sensitive information make use of that option all the time.

            If your printer has the option for secure print, choose it whenever you are printing secure information. Also, you won’t have the 4 copies show up the next morning. You might have an error, and it won’t print out, but even if you fix the error, it will NEVER print out until and unless you are present and put in the code.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          It was a general contingency plan, yes, but personally if I was printing anything with the word “layoff” in it I would hit Print, and then go stand by the printer to pull the document out of the paper tray the second it finished printing. People are naturally nosy (I’ve been guilty of it too) and something like that can send someone into panic mode — which is pretty much what happened here.

          1. KatiePie*

            Yes, I’m with Ann. You can call it “generic” all you like, but when an employee’s name is on it, it becomes “personal” and “important”.

          2. LBK*

            Same – that’s something you don’t leave around casually unless it has NOT AN ACTUAL PLAN, DO NOT FREAK OUT emblazoned across every page. I don’t care if it’s routine info to you; if you deal with sensitive information every day, you need to treat it as sensitive every day.

          3. Honeybee*

            This is one of the reasons I like our work printers – once you hit print, you have to go to the printer and swipe your badge to release the job.

        3. The OG Anonsie*

          General company contingency plans at that level are (or should be) pretty privileged documents that shouldn’t be left laying around on printers.

      2. Temperance*

        Nope. At my org, it’s possible for me to print to any printer in the building. We have 12 floors. I could accidentally print something to the wrong printer without realizing.

          1. Blue Anne*

            I believe the point is that doing this is very common, and the norm is to not read documents that aren’t yours from the printer.

            I work in finance, where confidentiality is super important, but everywhere I’ve worked OP’s manager would be skinned alive for this.

            1. Edith*

              It doesn’t even take a mistake for there to be lag time between something being printed and the person arriving to pick it up. My department’s printer is immediately outside two of my coworkers’ offices and a two-minute walk from mine. Even if I walk out to the printer to make sure the coast is clear, by the time I make it back to my office, hit print, and walk back to the printer there’s plenty of time for someone to have seen the document and put it back with me unawares.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          We can print to other locations in other states. Happens a lot after we have visitors from other locations. They just forget to switch the first time they print after going back to their home location.

          1. Ponytail*

            And this is why I LOVE follow-me printing. Nothing actually prints off until you are actually at the printer and retrieve your job. I can print off from over a hundred printers at work, save all my jobs for the next day if I want to and if I make a mistake and press ‘print’ twice, only pick up one job, saving paper and ink.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yes! When I worked in Big4 nothing would print until the printer read my ID card. It was a great system.

              1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

                I had that too at Big Employer. It was phenomenal. I wish more places would implement it.

            2. TootsNYC*

              A guy at my old company saved the company thousands by instituting it. I miss it!

    2. Beezus*

      I wouldn’t want to know until it was a sure thing, and I wouldn’t want to work for anyone who didn’t have enough discretion and professionalism to deal with that kind of information appropriately. This kind of thing is discussed on a contingency basis so often that my job has probably been the subject of an eventually-discarded layoff plan 7 or 8 times times for every 1 time it’s actually happened. I don’t need that kind of stress. Tell me that we need to manage costs, tell me that our financial results aren’t where they need to be, maybe even tell me that some reorganization is coming – put the writing on the wall for me, but let me read it myself.

      1. Steve*

        I like to believe I can handle the nuance of “I have some information which may or may not be true” and react appropriately. Immediately leaving for a different job with a drastic pay cut, is not appropriate reaction to the manager’s original disclosure, even if it had been true! They probably would have been better off waiting to be laid off, then collecting their severance and/or unemployment while they looked for new jobs.

        1. OP*

          There would have been no severance and as I said in my submission we couldn’t afford to be without a paycheck or risk running out of unemployment before we found something at our current pay.

          Funding a new job and adjusting our lives to make sure we could afford a place to live and our bills was an appropriate reaction to our boss telling us we would be laid off several times.

          1. Steve*

            Fair enough, my apologies. Also it’s stereotypically easier to find a job when you still have one.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            I agree, OP, and was just going to say this. I have several people working for me that absolutely cannot afford to be without pay. Job searches can sometimes take much longer than anticipated and it’s definitely possible to run out of unemployment pay before you get a new job. If you can’t afford to be without pay, or have some major life expenses coming up, I think what your team did was reasonable.

          3. Malibu Stacey*

            How could she have known there would be no severance if she didn’t talk to anyone about it? That would be really unusual to not even get a couple weeks bare minimum.

            1. Bangs Not Fringe*

              We can’t assume standards will just carry over. Our own experiences don’t apply to every situation.

              Personally, if I were to be laid off tomorrow, I would get no severance. So there’s a data point.

              1. Malibu Stacey*

                I . . . never said “[my] own experiences” apply to every situation. My point was it seems especially irresponsible of the boss if she told them would for sure not get any severance after telling them they were for sure getting laid off.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Some companies have a written policy about no severance. In that case, it is easy to know it is not available. And not getting severance is actually pretty common.

        2. Alton*

          I agree with this. It’s good to have warning and I would definitely put any major plans like buying a new car on hold, but I don’t think I would immediately quit or take a pay cut. I’m not judging the OP and their colleagues for reacting as they did, because it’s hard to know how to react in the moment sometimes. But knowing that layoffs are likely coming doesn’t always mean it’s necessary to leave immediately.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            But OP’s manager didn’t say likely. The manager said definitely, absolutely, without a doubt coming – you are all getting laid off for sure. So finding a new job is an appropriate reaction

            1. Steve*

              Looking for a new job – definitely. But I wouldn’t necessarily take a pay cut to do so.

                1. Justme*

                  And it’s not like unemployment covers a lot when you’re in the “no job” scenario.

            2. Jaguar*

              Agreed. The manager miscommunicated and there’s some blame there. But communication is also a two-way street, and the first thing I would ask is “How did you find out about this?” or, depending on how it was phrased, “How certain is this?”

              I think it comes down to how complete the information is, and even in the situation of incomplete information (as in this case), I would still want to know.

              1. Kindling*

                If this information was coming from a co-worker, I would absolutely ask those follow-up questions. But if it came from my manager, I could see taking it at face value, especially when it was stated as emphatically as the OP says it was.

                1. LBK*

                  Agreed – I would assume my manager is the person in the know when it comes to stuff like this, especially since the OP says she was always historically trustworthy.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I don’t think this is a situation where OP or their colleagues bear any responsibility or blame for not asking follow ups. If my manager told me, “you’re definitely going to be laid off by June, and I’m telling you so that you can job search,” I would absolutely believe that to be true. It would never occur to me to ask them if they were sure, especially given that she spoke definitively.

                This is on the manager. In this context, job hunting is the only reasonable response to her warning.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  I would believe it too. I would assume that she wouldn’t do this unless she was sure, and I would start job hunting ASAP.

                2. Jaguar*

                  I’m not blaming anyone. They acted intelligently on the information they had. Who would blame them? But communication is a process that involves effort from both sides and one of the obvious lessons to learn here is to ask questions. I know that sounds harsh, and I can totally understand how being told you’re about to be laid of can throw people for a loop where they wouldn’t have the wherewithall to think to ask those questions (I probably wouldn’t), but does that mean nobody should point out the ways this situation could have went differently if the OP had acted differently (potentially – there’s a lot of ways this wouldn’t help and it’s not clear from the letter that this would have helped). Basically, what I’m saying is, in situations like this, people are best served to take a deep breath and then try and find out as much as possible. Blame isn’t a relevant concept to this.

                3. Kathleen Adams*

                  Should they have asked questions? Yeah, probably. It certainly couldn’t have hurt.

                  In this case, though, I don’t know if it would have done much good. If someone had asked, she probably would have said something like, “I saw the official plan for cutting costs” – that is in fact what she thought she saw – and I for one would have believed her.

                4. The OG Anonsie*

                  Jaguar, this is really a hindsight 20/20 thing to assert. Maybe the manager would have suddenly become clearer and more forthcoming about how unsure the information was if she had been questioned, but I don’t think anyone can assert that is the case.

                  And even then, if you thought there was a good but not definite chance that you would be laid off, wouldn’t most people then start looking for work so they wouldn’t suddenly without a job in any circumstance?

                5. Jaguar*

                  @The OG Anonsie – Of course? If the OP found the printout themselves, I imagine they’d still act the same way (and even then, asking questions would still be the correct advice).

                  I don’t understand the complaints that maybe the manager wouldn’t have been clearer if questions were asked. How is that an argument against it? You’re still in the same position. There’s only upside to finding out as much as you can.

                6. Anna*

                  I’ve been through a lay-0ff and when my manager told our whole department about it, the manager who should know what’s happening, it didn’t occur anyone to question their information. It’s kind of their job to know that stuff. Communication between an employee and the person who manages them in most cases is a two way street. In this specific case, it wouldn’t really have produced any better information to plan with. I’m not sure what you’re argument is since you say the OP acted reasonably, they aren’t to blame for what happened, but they should have still known not to trust what they were being told?

                7. Jaguar*

                  I don’t think anyone should ever trust that they have perfect information, no. You make decisions with the best information you can get your hands on and do the best you can gather up as accurate information as you can first. It’s a problem with imagination, of course – how can you know to ask questions you might not think of about issues you have no knowledge of? But that doesn’t mean you should assume what you know or what you’re being told is correct. That’s just an assumption you (have to) make when it becomes time to act.

                8. jo*

                  Totally agreed. The mishap is on the manager. Based on what the OP has said, I’d have believed her too … before reading this post.

                  Now I’ll never take things like this at face value without further probing.

            3. SarahTheEntwife*

              Yeah, from the original letter I was a bit confused at why everyone was taking these drastic measures (start seriously searching, sure, but even if layoffs happen why would everyone be assuming they would be cut?), but from the update it sounds like this was “you specifically are definitely going to be laid off” rather than even “layoffs are definitely happening and you could be one of them”.

          2. Sunshine*

            I think their reactions seem appropriate. Especially the couple with a baby and the guy who has postponed getting married.

      2. littleandsmall*

        Yeah, I keep going back and forth with this one and ultimately, I don’t think I’d want to know until it was a done deal. Like you, I don’t need that kind of stress. Although it sounds like the OP and colleagues were possibly in more precarious financial situations, thus having as much time as possible to job search and get something else lined up before layoffs hit, which I understand and appreciate.

        Ultimately, I think the manager really should’ve hedged her bets by sharing what she had learned but reiterating that she hadn’t heard confirmation from higher-ups and she could not be 100% sure.

  5. irritable vowel*

    There should be a rule about this that’s the opposite of “gifts only flow down.” Something like “rumors only float up.” If you are in a position of authority and you find out something in a way other than through the official chain of command, try to get some confirmation from someone above you before telling people below you! The stakes in this case especially were way too high to pass on info gleaned through printouts left in the printer, but I can’t imagine any scenario where it would be okay to tell my direct reports something with any kind of weight to it that I hadn’t heard from my own boss.

    1. Chalupa Batman*

      I like that. When I hear a rumor from my boss, the fact that she’s saying it gives it much more credence than if I heard the same thing from a coworker. Bosses need to recognize that when they tell their reports something that may or may not be in the works-unless my boss says otherwise, if she tells me something is likely to happen, I assume that, to her knowledge, it’s more or less a done deal.

      1. GOG11*

        I go over this whenever I interview students who work for me in the context of discretion and handling confidential information, and reiterate that their role impacts how what they say is perceived after they are hired. If someone expects you to be in the loop, your word carries more weight and you have to be cognizant of that even if you’re saying something as just another student. Even if you don’t know for sure, others may assume you do because they assume you have access to that information.

    2. Steve*

      If the manager was going to be laid off, the manager’s manager would have denied it anyways.

      1. LBK*

        FWIW, I did actually unintentionally find out I was about to be laid off once, and the higher ups didn’t deny it when I asked about it. So you can’t definitively say they’d lie.

    3. Ms_Morlowe*

      I think this sounds excellent–you’re totally right to say that rumours have more weight when coming from someone in a position of authority, someone you would think would know more than you.

      1. Steve*

        The former manager should have disclosed the source of the rumor. Anyone could have found the papers on the printer and started a rumor. But since (as far as I’ve read) the manager didn’t say where she found the info, the team had to assume it was due to her position as a manager. For instance maybe she sat in a meeting where they decided who should be laid off.

    4. Noobtastic*

      I heartily agree with this.

      Back when I worked as an admin, my co-workers thought I simply did not gossip, at all. And honestly, I did try to keep myself right out of the gossip loop. “She’s pregnant? I had no idea!” “Girl, she’s eight months! How could you not know?” “She didn’t tell me, and I don’t ask about women’s bodies.” Yeah, that was me.

      However, if I ever heard some real gossip that might affect anyone in our department, I would tell my boss so he would not be surprised. “This came up, and it might have some effect on our group, so I thought I’d give you a head’s up on the information. I’m not certain how reliable it is, but if it does come out, you’ll be prepared, and not surprised.” So, yes, caveats galore, and only gossiping UP, and only when it would actually affect someone in our department in a way that would affect the department at large.

      As a matter of fact, the fact that I’d only gossip-up the rumors that would actually have an effect on the department at large was pretty limiting. It did not happen very often.

      Most of my warnings to my boss were not gossip, but reports of “this mistake was made. Let’s deal with it before the hammer comes down.” My boss was great. He’d forgive just about anything, and have your back, as long as you did not let him get surprised. If you reported a huge mistake you made yourself (or through me, his admin), he’d work with you on it, and be quite pleasant, in a “Father Knows Best” sort of way. But if he found out because someone outside our group reported it, such as a customer complaint, or a higher-up getting on his case about it, then BOOM! He would wield the hammer, himself. I acted as go-between to report one of my co-worker’s mistakes a few times (because they were too nervous, or simply unavailable with tight deadlines, or the like), but mostly they told him themselves, and my only involvement was to help them get in to see him in a timely manner. And, of course, admitting my own mistakes.

  6. bridget*

    “I tried to rescind my resignation from HR, but they wouldn’t do it because they said the hiring process had already been started and they had already arranged for temporary coverage from other departments once we were gone.”

    This seems like a very odd reaction to me. Either HR isn’t telling you the real story, or they don’t really understand the concept of a sunk cost. Even if they have expended energy and money “starting” the hiring process, it’s still probably cheaper to keep you than finish out the rest of the transition. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this wasn’t some elaborate plot to get trick you and your coworkers into voluntarily resigning – but the much more likely situation is that your manager (and HR) just bungled this really badly.

    1. Jaguar*

      Yeah. I always roll my eyes when companies complain about the investment cost in hiring people because, in my experience, they just as often act rigid and idiotic when things come about that solve that problem. They complain about the bureaucracy and then do everything they can to support it.

    2. LS*

      I also wondered about that response from HR. It sounds very strange.

      If this had happened to me, I really would be angry with the manager. She’s caused a great deal of damage to people who trusted her. That her intentions were good doesn’t change that.

      Her refusal to apologise or accept responsibility just makes it worse.

      Also – if the division was closing down, why wasn’t she job hunting?

      1. CrazyEngineerGirl*

        I wondered why she wasn’t job hunting as well. Perhaps the plan just had the whole team but not the manager getting laid off. I don’t know enough about these types of contingency plans to know if that’d be strange. Or perhaps she was looking but hadn’t found anything yet. We’ll probably never know but that would especially bug me if I were the OP.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It makes sense if the company wasn’t super enthused about these employees to begin with; in that case, this is exactly what they’d do (sorry, OP, but it’s a possibility). Or they’re really bizarrely rigid. Or they’re already lined up hires, or other changes are coming.

      1. Steve*

        Indeed, especially since it seems that all four of them are prone to overreaction!

        1. Emmie*

          I don’t think they overreacted. Her manager told them they’d be laid off with no caveats. This seems more like a smart reaction to advice from a trusted manager.

        2. OP*

          Respectfully, how did we overreact?

          None of us could afford to be without jobs and would have been in trouble if we had run out of unemployment.

            1. Reader*

              (Apologies ahead of time if this is a dumb question.)

              Isn’t the overreaction part the fact that OP resigned from her job, instead of waiting to be laid off from her current job so she could qualify for severance? I agree that it completely makes sense to go job searching as soon as you hear your job might be in danger, but I don’t understand why OP and her coworkers then decided to resign even earlier than the already-known announcement date (and lose out more on a higher paycheck) if financial matters are such a concern.

              1. Amy*

                The OP reacted to the manager’s declaration by job hunting. When they found a job, they likely felt like they couldn’t delay starting on the possibility of maybe getting a severance package (especially since from OP’s comments, it sounds like the manager told them there would be no severance). Under those circumstances, quitting a month ahead of the planned date to start a new job doesn’t seem like an overreaction.

              2. OP*

                She told us we would not be getting severance and that everyone’s last day would likely be the same day we were told about the layoff.

              3. Just Another Techie*

                I mean, if they had an offer in hand and a start date, what should they have done? Turn down the job offer because the start date is before the announced layoff date? That doesn’t sound very reasonable to me.

                1. EvilQueenRegina*

                  Exactly. I had one manager once who tried to make people delay our start dates because they fell before the planned layoff date and keep us there right up to the end, it caused a lot of bad feeling. It wouldn’t be reasonable at all.

              4. TeacherNerd*

                Part of this may be that the OP might not have known if she would have gotten a severance package – I could see a number of unknown variables here. The OP may feel differently; I’d rather be employed than take unemployment, especially if I know that a job loss is coming. I don’t see any overreaction here. “I’m going to be to of a job – better find a new one!” seems smarter, since the OP can still file for unemployment if there’s a gap; the OP looking for a job doesn’t mean one would be found and offered right away.

              5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Reader –

                It’s not a dumb question at all – because of several things…

                1) If you’re out of work, it’s much more difficult to find a job – your next job SHOULD pay competitively because they have to give you an inducement to come aboard. It iw WEIRD t all four found themselves much worse off by making the move.

                2) If you resign, most companies that have an HR process, that include exit interviews. I do find it difficult to believe that an entire department would resign without HR or some higher-up asking WHY? Therefore – avoiding this situation.

                3) Sometimes the first who make a move – layoffs forthcoming or not – will get the preferred counter-offers, which might include a “no layoff” deal.

                1. Karen K*

                  Responding to #1: There’s no indication that the OP and their coworkers took jobs that were comparable to the ones they left. Also, It sounds like all were desperate (and rightly so), and maybe did not negotiate pay as well as they might otherwise, or feel that they could hold out for a better job.

                  Don’t we have enough evidence from this board alone that companies will try to hire people at the lowest possible pay they will accept?

          1. Steve*

            OK, sorry. It’s probably not how I would have reacted but I see now that it is a reasonable reaction.

            1. Bea*

              I appreciate this comment, thank you for understanding. Your original comment hit me in a bad spot because I’m coming out of a bad spot where I’ve seen many people laid off without much warning. There’s no severance, the best perk is simply having one extra month of health coverage. Depending on a company there’s not much benefit except being eligible for 6 months of unemployment, which is a huge cut to your income level as well.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            OP, I feel for you, and I would have immediately started the job search too, so I don’t think that was an overreaction based on what you were told. But I do think that some of your anger at your manager is misplaced and some of your decisions were not exactly required by the situation – perhaps that is what Steve is referencing. Your decision to take on a lower-paying job, for example – although you didn’t know how much time you might have before layoff, you hadn’t been laid off and so there was no lack of paycheck at the point you accepted the other job (never mind of course not even beginning to collect UI, so certainly not running out of UI yet). I think there may have been some serious anxiety and maybe panic about the potential joblessness that drove you to accept a job, when you did have time to keep searching (even if your manager had been right). I get wanting to get all your ducks in a row because you see the emergency up ahead, but that emergency hadn’t happened yet.

            But I am sorry, this is a terrible situation all around.

            1. Annonymouse*

              OP has responded that their boss told them

              “You will be laid off in June, no severance pay and will probably be walked out on the day.”

              Knowing how bad the economy is and how long it can take to get a new job it makes sense that these 4 workers would take other jobs so to keep income coming in.

              The alternative is waiting until the layoff and facing uncertain financial future.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Exactly. And you’re competing against all the other people who just got laid off too.

                1. Annonymouse*

                  They weren’t.

                  That’s the problem.

                  OPs boss treated it like certainty though and told her while department “You will be fired.”

                  Again in this economy you can’t afford to hold out for a dream job or even a great one as most people are on tight budgets.

                  I’m sorry this happened OP.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You didn’t overreact. Commenters who are saying that are not exercising the full range of their empathy when making those statements.

            1. Not telling you my name this time*


              I’ve been unofficially notified that I may be laid off, but it’s still uncertain. I’m not actively job searching yet given what I know, and in my case it would be an overreaction. But a) I’ve been given some context for how likely it is that I’ll actually lose my job, b) I am fairly employable so I don’t expect a job search would drag on endlessly, and c) I can afford to be out of work for a while given my spouse’s income, should it come to that.

              In OP’s position (certain layoff, no financial cushion), I’d have done the same thing she did.

            2. Elise*

              +1,000 Stated perfectly. I’m having trouble understanding some of the commenters who think these people overreacted. I would absolutely take her at her word and take a lower paying job if it meant not going without a paycheck.

              OP – I’m so sorry this happened to you and your colleagues. I hope you can find another, higher paying job soon.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          I wouldn’t say they were overreacting. If my boss told me that I was unequivocally that I definitely was going to be laid off and that there would absolutely be no transition time, there’s a good chance I’d start looking for a new job immediately and take one if offered.

          1. Ms_Morlowe*

            Same! I think it would be over-reacting if it came from a coworker on the same level as you or below, but coming from someone who you would naturally assume to have more insight into such matters than you? I’d be looking as well!

          2. K.*

            I would. I can afford to be jobless for a little while but not that long, and I’d prefer not to have a gap – bird in hand, when you’re facing unemployment. I see no overreaction.

      2. bridget*

        Yeah. When I said HR might not be telling the real (or whole) story – this was what I was thinking. There might have been an unspoken “and we’re not all that sorry to see you go in any case.” Which totally sucks. Sorry, OP.

        1. SAS Error - it was the ;*

          I’m wondering if there might be layoffs with that department as the target coming, perhaps not in June, but at some point. I mean, why would anyone want to go through all the hassle of hiring and having other departments have to cover if there is a choice?

          1. OP*

            There were never any plans for layoffs in any department. My ex-manager got it wrong.

      3. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I’m wondering if HR is not aware of the full situation (why exactly the entire department quit). Or if maybe the boss communicated to HR that she would prefer new employees (rather than go to bat for the old ones) in an effort to keep her blunder under wraps. Nothing in the letter to specifically suggest that! HR’s response just sounds very odd to me coupled with the boss’s apparent lack of remorse.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Yeah. I’m curious if OP told HR the full story when she tried to un-resign.

      4. Blue*

        I worked at one place that — once you gave notice, or tried to get a counter offer, or ever reapplied to come back even years later — had an approach sort of like “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” You wanted to leave for whatever reason (even if 100 percent in good faith and leaving on good terms) and that was it, never again. This was a service type job, which was unpleasant to begin with and where the approach toward employees is very much that employees are expendable.

    4. Gen*

      They’ve all be under this manager for four to seven years and possibly with the company for even longer, is it possible that they’d become quite expensive for their roles and the new hires would be cheaper because they like years of accrued benefits?

      My husband works in an industry where people stick with their roles but still get annual pay rises. Which means some long term folks cost four or five times the cost of a new starter. Every time there’s a rumour of layoffs there’s a lot of hinting that if maybe certain staff took redundancy/retired the others could keep their jobs. And that’s what usually happens, enough preemptively go that layoffs aren’t necessary.

      I’m not saying the manager engineered that, but from HRs POV they might now be able to list those jobs with much lower salaries or use them in another cost saving way?

      1. Steve*

        Given that none of the four could find a job that paid the same, they may have been getting paid above market rate for their roles.

        1. Steve*

          From the OP’s other comments about the jobs getting posted with the same pay, I guess not.

      2. Gen*

        I see that OP said below that the starting salary was the same, but I wonder if the benefits package is as well?

        1. Steve*

          Aren’t benefits packages are usually more standardized inside a company? Barring something odd like the former employees having been grandfathered into some benefit that’s no longer available to new employees.

          1. Bea*

            But there is a wait time for benefits to kick in. So it buys the company 90 days without them all on insurance packages and a year without a 401k contribution.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There isn’t always that kind of waiting period. But even if there is, it’s REALLY unlikely that that’s the explanation. Most companies are run by humans, not evil overlords. But even assuming an evil overlord, the costs of turnover would cancel that out that small gain anyway.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      It seems pretty common for HR to be uninterested in attempts to rescind notice. Or on the other end, to be uninterested in people who turn down a job offer, then call back to try to get the offer back. In both cases, they figure the person isn’t interested in staying on the job, and is just scrambling to get some short term coverage because Plan A to go elsewhere fell through. (It’s one reason Alison cautions against taking counter-offers–that even if your employer comes through, it may be to give themselves more time to plan for your now-certain departure. And six months later you wish you’d taken that offer and left.)

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        This is what I am thinking. They know the breach of trust is probably broken with your boss and the consequences would be a relationship that is at-best strained. They probably feel like they can accept your resignation now or in a couple months when you find a new job.

      2. Moi*

        As an HR person, and a good employee told me they quit because their manager told them they were being laid off, and wanted to stay because now they heard it wasn’t true, I’d be leaping on them to get them to stay. This is definitely not a case of someone taking a job offer and then changing their minds.

    6. Creag an Tuire*

      I don’t know about “elaborate trick”, but the fact that nobody reacted oddly to an entire department(!) resigning at the same time suggests to me that the only reason there weren’t layoffs is because OP and her colleagues did their jobs for them.

      1. OP*

        The company posted our jobs with the same benefits and pay as we were at. They have already interviewed all the candidates. We did not resign all at once, it was over a one month period that we gave notice and our last days were all different as well. No one else in any department got laid off.

        1. CBH*

          OP Didn’t HR think it was odd that an entire department was resigning over the course of a 1 month period. When did the whole scenario come to light?

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          By institutional standards, over one month is as close to “same time” as makes no difference, unless your company is either being incredibly thick or disingenuous.

          Also, reading above it sounds like they must know at this point what happened (since your manager confessed to your grandmanager that she saw the document), and for them to not offer you the chance to rescind your resignations…

          It’s probably cold comfort at this point, but we’ve heard plenty of stories around here of people who are interviewed for, and even offered, positions that suddenly fail to materialize. I’d bet money that at least 2 or 3 of you are never replaced.

          1. OP*

            The division needs at least our 4 positions to function so either everyone’s replaced or no one is. The company has arranged for all of our positions to be filled by people from other departments. But that is only temporary as they are needed back I their regular departments. There have been no layoffs anywhere in the company and the company is still hiring across the board.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              “The division needs at least our 4 positions to function so either everyone’s replaced or no one is.”

              That… actually makes it more likely that the company is, at minimum, going to stretch out those “interviews” for a few months to see if it can survive without your department.

              I know you keep coming back to how “every other manager is insisting there were never any plans for layoffs”, but they have to say that. If it comes out that the only reason there haven’t been layoffs yet is because the entire Rice Sculpture Department resigned at once, other people are going to start worrying about their own job security. What they’re doing suggests that they are trying to say “We are hiring replacements for all open positions! All is well!” while their actions suggest that that isn’t the case at all.

              1. OP*

                The c-suite managers, executives, board of directions and my great grand boss have all confirmed that my boss was wrong about layoffs. No one from any department was laid off.

                The company posted our jobs and had interviews done before any of us have had our last day.

                They are not trying to go without my old division. Until the new hires come on board, 4 people have been brought in to do our old jobs. They can’t stay forever because they are needed in their old departments but they are currently doing our old jobs and all 4 of them are in the company directory and website as our acting replacements. My old division is up and running at full capacity.

                1. Annonymouse*

                  If your department is so important and there were no names on the document WHY DID YOUR MANAGER TELL YOU THIS?!

                  Without verifying it? Or trying to fight to keep her department?

                  If your manager was truly acting with best intentions she should have:
                  Verified the information
                  While fighting to keep a vital team going
                  And failing that (as in verifying and being unable to keep the team) THEN told the team “you should start looking for new jobs”.

                  Good intentions or not she caused some real damage and should at a bare minimum apologise for the upheaval caused.

    7. mcr-red*

      Yeah, that goes along with my theory that the layoffs are still happening. Or were happening, but now that the department all quit, they are restructuring and aren’t replacing them.

      1. OP*

        But no one from any other department has been laid off and the company is still actively hiring for jobs everywhere. They have also brought in 4 people to replace the 4 of us from other departments until the new hires come on. But those people can’t be there forever because they are needed back in their own jobs.

    8. JulieBulie*

      As soon as I read this letter, I thought that even if they weren’t laid off at the predicted time, they would probably have gotten the axe within a year. Because after it’s been on paper, even if only as a hypothetical, it’s no longer “unthinkable.” And the next time they need to cut costs, that’s probably where they will do it.

      So, while I agree the manager handled this extremely poorly and should be very sorry for it, OP and coworkers may still end up being glad they took precautions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, I’ve been the author of these contingency plans. First, cutting positions is never really unthinkable if you’re in senior management; it’s understood that it could be a reality. But more importantly, the act of writing a contingency plan doesn’t mean it will happen. Most of the ones I wrote didn’t come to fruition (fortunately).

      2. OP*

        Every upper manager has said there was no plans to lay anyone off. No one from any department or division was laid off. The company is still hiring for jobs (None that I have the qualifications for or expirience in unfortunately) and they are going to replace the 4 of us who left.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’ve been on the Board of Directors and the executive management team when we had to make these contingency plans. Of the three times it’s come up, we had zero lay-offs. Sometimes you mock up the lay-off scenario to put a human face on a budgetary issue. Sometimes you do it because your internal processes require that you go through all the different options when scenario planning. But the fact that the issue is raised doesn’t mean there’s any intention to go forward with lay-offs in the short or long terms.

        I just find it really weird that folks are not taking OP at their word on this.

    9. The OG Anonsie*

      Yeah, I don’t have an elaborate conspiracy theory or anything, but I do find that pretty fishy.

  7. Noah*

    Isn’t it possible that Company WAS planning to lay off OP’s group, but since they all left on their own, there was no need to lay them off?

    1. OP*

      As per my ex-managers boss, there was never any plans to lay anyone off from my division or anywhere else. Also it wouldn’t make sense since they are have already interviewed for all 4 of our positions at the same lay we made so they are not saving any money by us leaving on our own.

      1. sam*

        They may not be reducing headcount, but your replacements may very well be starting at a lower salary than what you’re currently earning with your years of seniority (and they could even be taking a haircut in comparison to what your starting salary was).

        I’m still not sure that would be worth the calculation to continue letting someone with institutional knowledge go in favor of someone who needs to be trained from the ground up, but it’s there.

        1. OP*

          Gah! I made a typo in my post. It should read same ‘pay’ as we made. The postings for our jobs listed a starting salary of what we made so unless the company is planning a bait and switch it looks like the replacements will be getting the same pay.

          1. MindOverMoneyChick*

            Baffling. HR is definitely being overly-ridged then. Why pay more for an unknown quantity when you have proven performers available. I can almost see it if you left for another reason (wanted a different job or more money elsewhere and it don’t pan out). But you only left because you thought you were going to lose this job. So it’s not like there is a great risk you will keep looking. This really is confusing.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Someone above said that perhaps they are not being hired back because now their relationship is shot with the manager who blabbed (as in, all the employees who departed due to bad information are angry with that manager). So now HR sees hiring them all back as a good way to set up conflict and drama on that team and are allowing the losses to stand and hiring new people.

              1. Elise*

                If that’s the case, they’re losing perfectly rational employees and keeping a manager who didn’t verify critical information. If she had heard discussions at a meeting or something like that, her reaction was founded. But she just found a paper on a printer and made a pretty big leap. I am much less sympathetic to her than Allison, and I think the company has chosen to lose 4 people and keep a manager who lacks common sense.

    2. k*

      It sounds like they made plans to replace all of them though, so I don’t think the positions were being eliminated.

    3. SophieChotek*

      Yes I wondered that. And we’ve all heard of company restructuring, etc. when everyone is told “no one is getting laid off” and then 3 months later…X people get laid off anyway!

      1. JulieBulie*

        I remember after a mass layoff at Former Dream Job, my grandboss told me “you were never even on the radar” (to be included in the layoff). And the CEO sent an all-employees email saying it the layoff had been tough, but he was convinced that those of us who remained were the exact perfect team to take us to the next level, or some crap like that.

        Six months later, I was included in the next mass layoff. So much for the radar. Ever since then, it’s been virtually impossible for me to not be paranoid.

  8. misplacedmidwesterner*

    I’ve been on the other side of this recently as a manager. (I’m in upper management, most of our managers didn’t even know this.) We had to cut costs and one of the possibilities we talked about was layoffs. We had a plan with specific positions outlined. We ended up going a different direction, thankfully. The entire time I was super paranoid. I got to work early to print stuff out so no one else would see it, I made sure all white boards were wiped as we left meetings. I never left anything laying out on my desk. So paranoid that any of this would get out accidentally before we had decided for sure what we were going to do. Seeing this, I’m glad I was so paranoid.

    And letter writer, I don’t have any good advice. but this really sucks for you. I’m sorry.

    1. sam*

      Yep – very early in my career I did some work as a labor/employment attorney, and I worked on a layoff for a client. In order to avoid anyone at the company finding out before it was “time”, they had us (outside counsel), write all the letters on their letterhead from our offices, and they sent us everything over a weekend so that no one would accidentally stumble across the information they were sending us from their offices. It was all very carefully planned.

      (It was also awful – there are many reasons I only lasted in that department for six months).

      On the flip side, when I got laid off from my job, it was such a secret that not even the people I actually worked for at my firm knew – they found out from me. Which made for an interesting afternoon as I explained to various people why I wouldn’t be doing all the work they had piled on my desk that week.

      1. Antilles*

        On the flip side, when I got laid off from my job, it was such a secret that not even the people I actually worked for at my firm knew – they found out from me. Which made for an interesting afternoon as I explained to various people why I wouldn’t be doing all the work they had piled on my desk that week.
        I’ve told this story at least once before on here, but I had a similar experience with nobody knowing about layoffs.
        After they called me into an office to inform me that I was laid off, I went back to my office to grab my stuff under the supervision of the HR manager. The desk phone rang, so I automatically answered it without a second thought. Then as the person started to ask about random project information, I remembered oh yeah, so I just apologized to the person on the other end by telling them I was just laid off for financial reasons and hung up. The company HR manager went white as a sheet and immediately ran out of the room.
        I later found out that they’d planned to introduce the layoffs a few days later in a quiet and controlled fashion, but my off-the-cuff remark blew their entire messaging plan and sent the office into a panic.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Just how were they planning on handling the fact that the laid-off employees wouldn’t be there doing work, answering phones, etc for the “few days” until they had their planned announcement? Sheesh.

          1. Annonymouse*

            How did they think it would work?

            “Anyone seen Antilles? Or Jane or Fergus? I need to ask them questions about important project.”

            “I haven’t seen them.”

            “Are they sick? Running late? On a vacation day?”

            “Ummm … Look over there!” *points over coworkers shoulder and runs away when back is turned*

          2. Antilles*

            I don’t really know. The best theory we could come up with is that since it was a Thursday, they were hoping people would just assume that a bunch of people had taken Friday off. Then they could roll out a few more layoffs on Monday before people realize “wait, Jane and Fergus aren’t in today either?”, then enough people would be gone that they could officially announce it?
            That’s the best I could think up. However, this was only like ~5 years ago, so still in the “everybody carries a cell phone with email” era, so it still seems pretty questionable.

        2. SansaStark*

          hahaha this kinda happened to me, too. It was amazing and gratifying to find out later that they needed to have an all-staff meeting to address the ensuing chaos.

        3. JulieBulie*


          Employers can be really unrealistic about what is and is not possible around a layoff. Thinking no one will notice a bunch of employees missing for several days? Brilliant.

          I once went through a layoff where the surviving employees were told not to communicate with us, their ex-coworkers. This had the amusing and unintended effect of making those employees VERY curious about what we might have to say! They also gave me a nice farewell lunch.

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Well, ha on them. What did they think was going to happen when they had the HR manager perp walk someone to their desk, and then expected to have several days before having to reveal what happened?

        5. Observer*

          Seriously?! That just takes incompetence to a new level! How did they think they were going to keep this a secret?

  9. Sketchee*

    Incompetence is often indistinguishable from malice. She could have handled it differently in hindsight. This shouldn’t have been on the printer. She should have confirmed with her managers. Best not to continue working together.

    At this point everyone needs to keep looking and move ahead with their careers. The jobs and situations all accepted will hopefully be short term.

  10. Consultant*

    Well, the boss overreacted. But if I were told a thing like that, my first thought would be to ask my boss what their source of information is and to take the revelation with a grain of salt, since it wasn’t official information. So no, I don’t think the boss is to blame here. It was OP’s decision to change jobs. Admittedly, it’s a very difficult situation for OP.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I had a similar reaction – “It’s not solely the boss’s fault” – because if I heard this from a boss I’d start job-searching but wouldn’t jump unless I found a really good move, until the layoff happened at least.

      And then I thought about it. Given the impacts on them and the fact that they did jump, I’d say none of these employees could afford to be without pay for long if at all. Ensuring you started a new job before the last one ended may have seemed to them like their best move.

      Hindsight is 20/20. But if my boss told me that in the way that OP’s boss did, it would sound like pretty likely information to me. The fact that she wasn’t supposed to know would make me question a little, but even so.

      The boss should still have been apologetic for giving them incorrect information. If she did so in good faith, then all she owes is an apology. If I shared information I thought to be true, but that was not, and someone else acted quickly on it with bad results, I would not feel solely responsible for their bad results. But I would apologize for my part in the situation, and I would regret it.

      1. Consultant*

        “She said she had found out this information accidentally and no one knew she had found out.”

        This doesn’t sound convincing… My first thought would be to question her judgment. How can anybody find out accidentally about a thing like that? If she had told them that she had participated in a meeting during which this had been discussed, this would have been more convincing, but “finding out accidentally”? Come on.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’ve probably overheard one too many “confidential” conversations in an office area with crappy acoustics. :) Not to mention received emails not intended for me.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, I get another coworker’s emails every so often. We work in the same division and have not only the same first name, but a last name that starts and ends with the same letter (like Bentley and Bradley), and the same middle name, spelled the same way.

            1. SAS Error - it was the ;*

              Our biggest boss and I have the same first name bar the last letter. I get so many of his emails that it is ridiculous

          2. NW Mossy*

            As someone with a very common first name, this happens to me a lot due to auto-complete errors. I typically handle these by responding “I think you meant NW Moldy….”, which usually elicits a shame-face emoji back and a request that I never speak of it again.

            1. Kj*

              I had the same unusual last name as my drama teacher in high school and my first name placed me in front of her in the alphabet. I ALWAYS got the drama budget and long, detailed emails about the latest play/drama in the drama department. It was really funny, looking back.

          3. Consultant*

            Yeah, me too. And then in at least 50% of the cases I resulted to misunderstand something. So I’m careful about drawing conclusions from overheard conversations and similar.

        2. KellyK*

          It actually sounds consistent with the way layoffs are often handled, and some of the discussions upthread about keeping things very hush-hush. If her job was at risk too, they wouldn’t necessarily tell her.

          In addition to the way she (thought she) found out, by finding a document left on a printer, she could also overhear a conversation or be accidentally included on an email chain. I don’t think it’s necessarily a stretch that someone could get information that they weren’t supposed to have.

          1. Consultant*

            Yeah, but every time you get information like that you have to be aware that you received only a “snapshot” of a situation. You don’t know if what you heard was the final decision for example or only part of a discussion. And you have to be aware that you don’t have the whole context.

            So I would be very careful about assuming I know the situation after overhearing something or finding a random document. And I would be even more careful if someone told me they had overheard/ found a document, because I trust my judgement more than I trust other people’s judgements.

            1. Non-Prophet*

              As people have said, hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure OP will be more skeptical of “found” information in the future. But given what OP has shared — that their team never had a reason to distrust their manager previously and had worked with her for years, I can see why OP trusted the information provided.

              1. Consultant*

                Yeah, “hindsight is 20/20”. But this argument could also be used to defend the boss actually. If we assume that she was really sure there were to be lay-offs.

                1. Sally Sue*

                  But when there were not any layoffs, that’s where her bad behavior really began. She should have apologized to her employees and reached out to HR to see if she could help any of the employees get his/her job back.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          “This information is extremely sensitive, which is why I’m sending it to the public printer and then going to lunch” is a very old tale.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OP followed up to clarify that she told them they “definitely” would be laid off. I think their reaction is entirely reasonable. My first reaction wouldn’t be to question my boss, but perhaps OP’s manager’s first reaction should have been just that.

      2. Colette*

        Causing a panic was the boss’s fault. Layoffs are rarely final months in advance, and certainly she caused her employees to make rash decisions due to her carelessness.

        But everyone moving to lower paying jobs seems like an extreme reaction, unless there are other circumstances (I.e. limited job market, pay above the market rate).

        Really, this is a good example of why everyone should have an emergency fund so that they don’t have to make decisions in a panic.

        1. OP*

          Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to survive without a job. Maybe you are well enough financially but not everyone has that privilege.

          And most people would assume their manager was right when she tells you something is a sure fact multiple times over 3 months.

          1. Colette*

            I completely agree that your manager acted horribly here. But I also think that there are lesssons you can learn here so that you don’t end up in a similar situation in the future. One is that layoffs aren’t certain until they tell you. The other is that having savings gives you choices. I realize saving money isn’t always easy, but it’s important.

        2. Moi*

          “Really, this is a good example of why everyone should have an emergency fund so that they don’t have to make decisions in a panic.”

          This is one of those “Let them eat cake” comments. There are a frightening number of people whose life situation, through no fault of their own, would make this comment seem a tad tone deaf.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There are also lots of people who could afford emergency funds but don’t have them. I think this is veering into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory.

        3. BananaPants*

          Thank you for the holier-than-thou attitude on the emergency fund and taking lower-paying jobs! I’m sure it’s helpful for our OP and her former coworkers to hear that their situation is their fault.


        4. bridget*

          This doesn’t really seem like a panic, though. They were told multiple times since February that they would all be definitely laid off in June, and now it’s the middle of May. If I was told that my job was ending on X date for whatever reason, I would line up a new job to start around the same time my previous job ended, especially if I had no reason to believe I was misinformed – I’d see no reason not to plan ahead just in case someone was wildly misinformed. If the best replacement job I could find paid less than my current job, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles; it’s better than the salary I expect to have after the layoff.

          Basically, I’m saying that I would have done the same thing as the OP, if I was led to believe by someone who should know that this was definitely happening at a specific point in time. And I have an extremely comfortable emergency fund.

        5. Steve*

          Hindsight is 20/20 but I would say that everyone who has lived through this kind of situation, or is even just reading this, who doesn’t have an emergency fund, should take this as a wake up call that they need to make one if at all possible. If you can survive, somehow, with a 25% pay cut, make the changes now and use the savings to build the emergency fund.

        6. MissGirl*

          Part of commenting here is to offer perspective to the OP but also to others who may find themselves in similar situations. I just started a new job and Collette’s comment reminded me how I need to focus on my emergency fund now. I may only be able to do a little bit each month but it’s better than nothing. Alison is right that some of us who can do this neglect it and this a good reminder of why it’s important. Some people aren’t in a position to do so but that doesn’t make it bad or unfeeling advice.

          OP. This situation stinks to high heaven. I wish you well at your new job and hope things eventually work out for you.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    For the love of all that is holy, do not leave sensitive documents on communal printers, people!

    I sat next to a communal printer, and I could tell so many stories about all the stuff people left on there. The biggest one? HR (!) was screening CPA candidates. One applicant’s driving, credit, and criminal history were left on that printer for a week. A week! Until I shredded it.

    1. Jillian*

      Once in a call center I worked at, a lady had a side business selling some, ahem, adult products (legal, but NSFW), and had printed out some sales stuff that had pictures of the items she had for sale. The papers had been left on the printer for a few hours, they were found and reported to management, and it was somehow traced back to her. She lost her job that day.

    2. DiscoTechie*

      At one of my old jobs, a medical laboratory kept faxing us, an engineering firm, medical test results. It went on for about a month in which I would keep shredding the items until I was able to track down the originating lab and inform them that they’d been spreading sensitive medical information to the four winds. Nothing like the sound of shocked silence then immediate relief when I said we had been shredding the misdirected faxes.

      1. shwerve*

        Yeah, at my last job I had an electronic fax line set up. I consistently received faxes from customers attempting to pay for their motel stays, including full credit card information and a scan of the card itself. I worked in another industry, in another state. Finally I tracked down the phone number for the motel to notify them that I was receiving these faxes, and they honestly didn’t seem to care. The response was, ‘Oh yeah, that’s because we’re still handing out cards with the old fax number on them.’ I’d never pay for anything through a fax, but good to know how much you care about your customer’s financial information!

      2. Blurgle*

        For two years back in the 90s the Yellowknife hospital sent STD test results to the CBC broadcast studios, whose fax number was one digit off the downtown clinic’s number. Two years!!

    3. Anonyforthis*

      Yup a disgusting gnome of a guy who worked in CS printed out some pictures of *young* girls on one of our printers. It was found out that he did it and he was reprimanded (though not fired), and has since moved into a different department. He has hated the IT department ever since.

    4. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      At my previous job we switched to a system where all documents had to be printed with a secure print system. We had to first click print, then walk to the printer, show our cards, and accept the printing. Then the machine would give out the papers. For me personally this was really annoying because I basically never printed anything confidential but still had to stand by the printer when it was doing its thing, instead of doing my thing in the office and later coming to collect the papers. There were also constant technical problems. Reading these stories though, I’m starting to think it may have been the best option anyway…

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        That system helps for other operational reasons besides confidentiality – print jobs don’t get mixed in with someone else’s, docs aren’t sitting there forgotten about, if someone is printing an envelope or something on extra large paper, you don’t have to wait for them to walk to the printer and feed there paper in manually to get your own print job.

    5. LtBroccoli*

      I love that the communal printers at my work have the “lock print” option – I send it to the printer from my desk but it doesn’t actually print until I enter my code at the printer.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        Yes! I use Lock Print almost exclusively on our printers, no matter what I’m printing.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I love that feature, too. If I’m printing something innocuous, such as invoices to pay, I just send them to the non-secure printer. But if I’m printing anything confidential, I send it to the printer that requires my copy code to release the document, and then I stand there and guard the printer until my document comes out.

  12. k*

    I’m really curious as to why no one at this company thought it was odd that an entire division all quit at the same time. Did the manager ever get asked by their boss what the heck was going on?

    1. Roker Moose*

      This was my thought too. Unless this is an industry/company with exceptionally high turnover rates, wouldn’t an entire team quitting raise somebody’s eyebrows?

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is what I was wondering! A team of four, and two of them resign in a short time would be a red flag. When the third resigned, I’d definitely be asking.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I actually thought that might be why HR is ok with letting them go—perhaps they thought something else was at play, and better to restart the department than allow them to come back.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Hmm, maybe. I would definitely be interested in hearing this story from their POV.

    3. OP*

      Im not sure why no one asked us. All HR2 did was follow the procedure which was forwarding us the email our manager had sent them and confirming that it was correct. The manager told them we were leaving because we were moving or got a new job and stated what our last day would be in each case. So if there was questions in mind no one ever asked.

      1. Green Goose*

        How did HR or the bosses boss react when you told them that your manager told you all repeatedly that you were being laid off? Was your manager in trouble? Did HR or the bosses boss think it was odd?

        1. Meddling Little Belgian*

          Wasn’t the manager concerned that she thought her division was being laid off, both for her direct reports and herself? Who was she planning to manage if she believed her entire division was being cut?

  13. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

    While she acted out of concern for her team, I find this part the most reprehensible: “sharing information as if it were certain fact when she didn’t actually know that.”

    This was a huge piece of information and it’s so critical to make it clear that you don’t know for certain if you don’t have confirmation from the decision-makers that this is definitely happening. And even then you know that this is almost certainly sending people off to find other jobs, so you’ve got to know that this is going to impact them seriously, and act accordingly.

    I don’t think I understand why HR is refusing to allow OP to stay, though. Just because you’ve begun a candidate search doesn’t obligate you to complete it.

    1. Annonymouse*

      If she was really concerned she would have fought for her team.

      I’m saying that based of OPs updates:
      Roles are advertised for same pay
      interviews conducted before the end dates
      People being transferred to act in these roles until hiring complete

      It’s clear this team is vital to the workplace (like teapot designers at a custom design teapot company) and it makes ZERO sense to lay them off.

      If the boss was really concerned she SHOULD have brought it up to her manager.

      “Concerned about future and security of my team due to information I’ve come across, my team is super important to our company, can you explain the thinking around this?”

      Would have yielded the proper outcome.

  14. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

    I’m wondering how much the Manager worked to get their jobs back, if at all. Did she go to bat for you with HR? If not, I’d definitely have an issue that may have been worth escalating past HR.

    1. NW Mossy*

      This manager’s credibility level with her management and HR is probably subterranean at this point after such a colossal error, so I doubt any attempted intervention by her specifically would be worth much.

      1. DCR*

        Is that her manager and/or HR know. The more I read OP’s comments, The more I wonder if the grandboss and HR were ever told. If not that would explain why HR isn’t willing to rehire them.

  15. Elliot K*

    I’m not a legal expert, but I wonder if the letter writer and her colleagues have any legal recourse to get their jobs back. I would at least consider talking to an employment lawyer.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      They really have zero recourse. The company doesn’t have any obligation to these employees. (Assuming they are in the US, and not in another country with very different employment laws.) They could certainly talk to an attorney, but it would honestly be an hour of their time wasted.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I’m in another country with VERY different employment laws. I still can’t think of a situation where an employer would have to take ex employees back when the ex employees are the ones to quit. Even if they get false information and quit based on that, it’s still their decision to quit and the employer doesn’t have to take them back if they don’t want to. Of course in many cases they would want to do that. With actual layoffs it’s different. We have a law that if a company has laid off people (which is a much more transparent process here and wouldn’t ever happen at one day’s notice), and soon after that they need to hire new people for whatever reason, they have to take back those who had been laid off, if those people apply to the new position. That’s the only case when the employer has to take someone back.

        1. Kathlynn*

          If they quit because the employer was breaking the law? Like recently, at my last employer an axting assistant manager was trying to come back after government protected maternity leave. She quit when the employer kept claiming they would , but never following through with, be putting her back on the schedule in a week. She started the conversation before her mat leave ended and was coming back as a cashier. It is possible that they would be required to either pay her severance or reemploy her, if she filed a complaint with the correct groups iirc. (this is Canadian law though)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There’s no legal claim, here, from what I can tell. And given that they do not have the funds to be out of work or afford the pay cuts they now face, I’m not sure wasting resources on a lawyer would be helpful to them.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      I am also not a legal expert, I don’t even play one on TV. However, in this case would a civil suit naming the manager who provided the info have any teeth? I have doubts, especially given that the manager apparently was acting in good faith, but again, I’m just a curious dude on the internet, and am defiantly not a legal expert.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        No, it would not have teeth. (And then there is the whole issue of collecting the judgment – even IF, by some weird circumstance, such as the manager forgetting to show up in court and the plaintiff being able to get a default judgment – the manager is just an individual. Having a judgment does not mean you just get the money. If the manager doesn’t *have* that money lying around in an easily accessible bank account, good luck getting paid on your judgment.)

        The law and the courts are not the answer here. They just aren’t.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Oh dear, somehow I missed several words in my sentence! I meant even IF, by some weird circumstance, such as the manager forgetting to show up in court and the plaintiff being able to get a default judgment, the OP managed to not have the case thrown out and miraculously got a judgment ….

          Because it would be thrown out of court, really. There is no legal basis that I can see for a civil suit. No law broken, no duty violated, and so no basis for suing.

          1. Statler von Waldorf*

            That’s sort of what I thought. Thanks for the info!

            (And yes, I am aware that collecting on a judgement is a crap-shoot at the best of times. I was more curious on if a hypothetical manger could be found liable for providing info that directly lead to their employees suffering financial loss.)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I just want to echo Jessie—there really isn’t a lawsuit here, not even against the manager. But even if you sued the manager, I’m fairly confident that the cost of bringing a suit will be more expensive than anything you could collect from the manager.

        There is a legal concept about detrimental reliance (i.e., you promised something, I took action in reliance on that promise, and it didn’t happen, causing me harm), but it only applies in narrow contexts like contract and fraud. I don’t think it would apply to OP’s situation.

    4. Triangle Pose*

      Nope, no legal recourse. Lawyer here. I think there is no good solution here, it’s all too late.

      1. Devil's Advocate*

        Hmmmm…I’m also an attorney and thinking outside the box: if they have employment contracts could what she did be tortioius interference of such contract.

  16. Jillian*

    I’m kind of surprised the OP’s boss’s boss didn’t question why the entire team had submitted their resignations. Shouldn’t that have set off some sort of red flag that things were amiss?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Good catch! I’m now wondering the same thing. Although, my manager at my last job had 150% turnover in less than a year and no one questioned it. (Maybe not quite the same thing as OP’s situation, but I’m guessing no one was paying attention to it.)

  17. The Other Dawn*

    Hmm. This is a tough one.

    As a manager, I’ve been in several situations similar to this one. And every time except for one, the information I came across was just a “what if” scenario and never came to fruition, so it’s good I never said anything. The one that did come to fruition (company closing), however, was something that was truly confidential and I didn’t—couldn’t–tell anyone, not even my direct reports. It was truly awful to know that closing was highly likely, but had I said something, it would have caused a lot of damage within the company, may have caused damage publicly had an employee leaked it, and I definitely would have lost my job. As much as it pained me and caused a lot of sleepless nights, it was part of doing my job to keep it confidential. And it wasn’t 100% certain until the morning it happened. Truly, something could have happened up until 9 am that morning and we would have still been in business.

    I feel the manager needs to be reprimanded pretty harshly, if not fired. Sure, she didn’t mean any harm, but she definitely caused a lot of harm: she lost her whole department, people had to take lower-paying jobs, move house, and put life plans on hold. She should have spoken to her boss about what she found. (Yes, he should’ve grabbed his stuff off the printer, but I think it’s reasonable to expect that if someone seems something like that, they will assume it’s confidential and not mention it to anyone.)

    As to whether she should have told her team if she got actual confirmation of layoffs, I’m really torn about that. It’s still confidential information (usually) and it’s her job to maintain confidentiality. But the employee side of me would want to know and the human side would want to warn my team layoffs are coming.

    As for HR, that seems really bizarre to me that they wouldn’t let the team come back if they wanted to. It seems to me they don’t know the actual story. This was caused by someone in the company giving them incorrect information. I would think they’d want to make it right.

    And as for OP, yes, I’d be ripping mad this happened and that the manager hasn’t apologized or shown remorse. Had I let information leak and caused all the harm caused here, I don’t think I’d ever be able to get over it and would be falling all over myself to apologize.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, I think this manager likely needs to be fired.

      Not as “punishment” for this mistake — that concept just doesn’t work in the adult world — but because her judgment was dangerously wrong.

  18. Bee Eye LL*

    I was in a similar situation @ 6 years ago where the finance manager said that one person from our department was going to be cut, so I updated my resume and found a new job in less than a week. Two years later, I got asked to come back to a higher level position (to manage my old group) and the first thing HR asked was why I left. I told HR that word had come down that they were looking to make a cut and the HR person actually confirmed it.

    What was I supposed to do, though? I was the newest member of the department and knew I was most likely going to be the one to get cut since it’s a government job and all the others had civil service protection.

  19. Biff*

    I’m not so sure that the manager was/is wrong. I’ve been reassured multiple times that “this is the last layoff” and it never is. What really sets my spidey senses tingling is that the HR claims that they too far along with new hires to reverse the process — I wonder if they are perpetuating an illusion of replacing the department. One of my jobs left postings open and pretended like they had incoming work to the bitter end. But of course, if people had asked about returning to their job, even for reduced pay, they were told that they weren’t needed.

    1. hbc*

      That’s where I am. The people doing the backfilling in HR might not even be in the loop on the layoff plans, or layoffs are still in the back pocket in case those other proposed changes don’t save as much as needed. Maybe they were planning on laying off two people but are now interviewing for all four positions to see where they get the best prospects for the two replacements.

      I mean, if the big boss wasn’t going to come out and say, “Yes, layoffs are still on the table” in his canned speech, is there any reason to believe he’d be perfectly transparent when asked the question?

      Regardless, OP’s manager sucks.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Also a good point. What was the big boss supposed to say in the meeting? “Despite switching to a cheaper health plan and eliminating the coffee budget, we’re still going to have to cut four or five people. Run for the hills.

    2. Natalie*

      Except in this case there are no layoffs, and there never were. The manager found a contingency plan that included layoffs, but that doesn’t mean the company’s circumstances were ever that dire.

      And for what it’s worth, I have worked at a company that had one round of layoffs and righted the ship.

    3. JulieBulie*

      Biff: I’ve been reassured multiple times that “this is the last layoff” and it never is.

      Yep. Been there. I will never trust a layoff-related denial again, because even if the person I’m hearing it from is being honest, they can only tell me what they’ve been told, which might have been a lie. Based on my experience, there is a lot of lying before a layoff. Not just evasion, but outright lying.

      I’ve seen this from multiple employers, and I don’t mean dinky unprofessional outfits with no HR. I mean large corporations.

    4. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      I was wondering the exact same thing. Just because the hiring process has begun for a role doesn’t mean the role will be filled. Just because a leadership team says there won’t be layoffs doesn’t mean there won’t be layoffs. Even taking them at their word, the stop-gap measures they’ve taken to control the situation may not be enough to prevent layoffs next month.

      That said, the manager should definitely have provided caveats to her team – and ideally would have intervened with HR to provide more context / explanation on why the company should allow an employee in good standing to rescind the resignation.

      1. OP*

        They already had interviews done before any of us had our last day. They have brought in people from other departments to cover our jobs until the new hires came one. There were no layoffs in any department and the company is still hiring for other jobs in other departments actively.

        I see you what you are saying about layoffs next month but there were never any plans for any layoff to begin with and my boss got it wrong.

        1. Biff*

          OP, thought about this for awhile and have a thought for you that may be helpful just in settling your mind. It does definitely sound like your boss really screwed this up, regardless of mitigating factors (which have been discussed ad-nauseum here.) I think you are justified in feeling that your boss avoided karmic redemption here and that she left you and your coworkers holding that bag.

          However, what HR is doing is just plain WEIRD. It’s not how a normal, healthy company would handle this sort of managerial mistake. They have people working double-duty, and they haven’t extended offers, they know that your boss accidentally said you were being laid off when you weren’t, and yet they are not attempting to retain you at all? There has to be a catch somewhere. I think it’s valid to try to understand why HR is doing this. Some scenarios I considered while mowing my lawn (seriously, I meant it when I said I was thinking about this!):

          — There actually was going to be a layoff, and HR simply needs to fill those slots until June Whatevereth, and it makes more sense (to them) to get the people doing double-duty out of the roles and pay someone else to do it for three to six weeks. They aren’t offering you your jobs back because they know they’d just turn around and lay you off as you’d feared.

          — The company was planning on laying off your entire department due to political/fit reasons and when you all quit, they saw an option to try to rebuild it from the ground up to see if they could make it work. (It doesn’t happen often, but I have seen companies basically fire every last old hand in order to change culture problems.)

          — Your ex-boss is being protected politically for reasons that make no sense.

          — Something erstwhile toxic is happening at your ex-job.

          Considering how convoluted/stupid these potential scenarios have to be, I have to admit to thinking you dodged a bullet here, regardless of the hit to your income.

          1. Kathlynn*

            Having read the LW’s comments I’m not clear if they contacted HR themselves or their manager to rescind their resignation. If they only contacted the manager, she might be covering her butt and claiming that none of them wanted their job back.
            At my second last job, a multi-location/store company, sold the business to two companies. My former manager lied to her bosses and told them that everyone at my store/location knew they could accept a transfer (which was a much better deal) to a different store and join company 1, and we all wanted to stay at the location (and eventually join company 2). I’m now working at company 2, but the advantages I would have gotten (we didn’t wait to gain all the benefits, we were also supposed to retain our seniority)

            1. OP*

              I contacted HR myself along with one of my coworkers. They say it’s because they have already started interviews and have a policy against allowing people to change their mind once they quit.

          2. Former Retail Manager*

            I’m in agreement with Biff…HR’s reaction indicates that there is more to the story that OP and her co-workers don’t know. Could be any of the things Biff mentioned….we may never know. My gut instinct says for OP to wait and see what the situation is at the old company in 6 months and whether her old department is still there. Also, OP, if you have an insider at Old Company, I’d personally ask them to keep me in the loop (out of morbid curiosity). While the outcome isn’t great, a quasi bright side might be that you no longer work for a manager who has revealed herself to have questionable judgment on highly sensitive matters.

  20. NW Mossy*

    I facepalmed for this manager, because she really stepped in it. She failed at one of the fundamentals of managing, which is being able to keep mum about sensitive information unless and until you have a clear go-ahead to release it. If she reported to me, I’d be having serious discussions about her suitability for a management role going forward.

    One of the downsides of being a manager is that you sometimes know things that would materially impact others negatively and can’t share it for confidentiality reasons. It’s a big responsibility, and it can be brutal to keep those secrets sometimes. But this is why you get paid the intermediate bucks – they’re compensating you for the fact that the strategic value of the information you hold is higher and the consequences of your decisions are higher still. And on some level, they’re purchasing the right of first consideration, where you give deference to the company’s interests ahead of what you’d do as an independent actor.

  21. La Revancha del Tango*

    OP – I’d be beyond furious and writing some emails to the highest of highest people that I could think of (especially in HR). You should be able to keep your job.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I think OP would be far more likely to burn bridges that way than to get the job back. The “highest of highest people” in the company would be taken aback, and not in a good way, to be getting emails/letters/calls/whatever from someone complaining that she couldn’t get her job back after resigning. (Even if she resigned based on bad intel.)

      1. JenMidd*

        But … that’s not really what happened. The manager, a person of authority who should be trustworthy, snooped some docs that weren’t hers to see, decided she would tell her whole team this was happening as a matter of fact, swore them to secrecy (which I have a huge problem with. These are her direct reports, not junior high BFFs) about the very important and life changing information she was sharing with them, got it wrong, then lied to HER boss about how much she really shared with her employees. Then, she didn’t do anything to help them retain their jobs and acted like it was not big deal. Honestly, she seems like a coward. If I were one of the highest of the higher ups, I would definitely want to know if that was the type of person I had leading other.

        I agree with someone up thread, regardless of the outcome, I would let the ones who matter know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

        That manager SUCKS.

  22. Mike C.*

    I feel like we could have a letter next week about a manager that didn’t tell their employees they were to be fired until the day of and hearing about how they made long term plans like buying homes and what not.

    Look, if we take a game theory approach to this – Manager discloses/doesn’t disclose layoffs vs. Company performs/cancels layoffs – I still think it’s always in favor of the employees to disclose the possibility.

    In this specific case it didn’t turn out great for the employees but normally I wouldn’t advise people to quit their jobs. There could have also been the possibility that those employees found similar or even better jobs. Or maybe they find jobs but have enough time to turn offers down. Finally, we don’t know if the current cost cutting measures will be enough and it’s possible that layoffs will come later.

    This isn’t a black or white issue of course, but I don’t find this situation to be as cut and dry as it first appears.

    1. Jaguar*

      Yeah. This was correct but incomplete information. Why wouldn’t you want as much information as possible? Almost any decision in life is a gamble and you can make the most intelligent decision in every step and wind up worse off than if you had made different decisions – that’s the nature of a gamble. The only thing that decreases the variability of a gamble is information. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why someone would prefer to have less information, and I always view it as morally corrupt to withhold information from people.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think the bigger issue is that the manager showed no remorse for being wrong. I mean, yes, I would be grateful if I had a heads up about a potential layoff, but if I found out after the fact that it was never the plan, I would at least expect an apology from the person who gave me misinformation.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        For me, the real problem is that she presented the information as certain fact. If she had shared exactly what she knew (“I found this information on the printer. I don’t know if it’s confirmed, but I wanted to give you a heads up.”), I could agree with Mike. She escalated the severity of the situation without knowing what she was talking about.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I think that’s a legitimate issue. I would feel terrible being in the manager’s position.

        1. Annonymouse*

          At least you have empathy and sense.

          This manager refuses to apologise and told her team SEVERAL times “This is a done deal. You’ll all be jobless in June.”

          Since February. FEBRUARY.

          At the very least her discretion and communication style addressed.

    3. Natalie*

      Eh, I don’t think it’s so black and white. It sounds like she never even checked in with her boss to see what was happening or how it would be handled, and the situation she told her employees was the worst case scenario presented to a group of people who have no cushion.

      If she had been informed through normal channels about layoffs but told to keep it a secret, I’d be more inclined to take your position. But she was terribly negligent here.

    4. LBK*

      But it wasn’t disclosed as a possibility, and it doesn’t sound like there was any due diligence done to even attempt to confirm if the information was correct.

      If you have confidence that this will happen and you also position it as a possibility but not something you know you for sure, then I agree. But that’s not how the manager in question approached this at all; I don’t think game theory favors running wild with sketchy information and treating it as absolute fact.

    5. The OG Anonsie*

      The issue is that the manager presented the layoffs as an absolute thing– this team would be laid off, for sure, with no severance, with no notice, in June. That’s wildly different than giving a heads-up that layoffs may be a possibility, and even that is questionable considering the completely unreliable source from which she got the information.

  23. Jeanne*

    I’m so sorry you all ended up in that position. What a mess. I don’t know what advice to give except to move on. Maybe in a year you can look for a job that is even better. You can make sure HR knows what happened and your boss’ boss but there isn’t much else to do.

  24. Gadfly*

    With HR I wonder if they are thinking that after this there’s not a good way to move forward without some issues and they are going the chicken route of it is easier not to have those issues in house and think this is the cleanest break.

    Layoffs could still be a possibility in the pipeline. Depending on what happens with the manager there is a lot of room for awkward. Some coworkers may (IMO unfairly) not trust the people who jumped ship as much or question their judgement. Stuff like that.

  25. Amy*

    This is pretty awful.

    I don’t think the OP and other employees overreacted. Sure, if this was a rumor from a coworker that layoffs might be coming, maybe. But this was from their manager, which gives it credibility, and she presented it as hard fact. Anyone would panic in that situation. And if you know you’re going to be laid off (or are convinced you know it, at least), and you know you can’t afford to live without an income for a bit, of course you’re going to try and find a job ASAP, even if it isn’t as good as the job you’re losing. (Ideally we would all have enough savings to be able to hold off for a good match, but realistically a lot of people don’t.)

    And I can understand where the manager was coming from. She saw the documents, (mis)interpreted them as the definite plan, and basically decided that she cared more about giving her people a chance than about obeying confidentiality. But she didn’t handle it well. She should have given more accurate information–“I saw this, I don’t know if it’s for sure the plan or if it’s just a contingency, but JSYK it does exist” would likely have gone over differently than “It’s 100% definitely going to happen.”

    And she should apologize now that the real circumstances have come to light. I wonder if her failure to do so is rooted in her own stress about the situation? I’m betting the company is moving towards firing her, honestly, due to her actions–most companies don’t want managers that can’t be trusted with confidential documents. Maybe she’s caught up in an “I can’t apologize if I was right to do what I did, and I was right to do it because I sincerely meant well, and if I question either of those assumptions I’ll fall apart because I’m already so stressed” mindset.

  26. stephanie*

    Another thing to consider is that I have watched management declare that no layoffs are planned, when they darn well are already scheduled. Upper management has a job to do, and sometimes that requires everyone happily sitting at their desks until the company decides otherwise. Telling your workforce that their jobs are uncertain can throw all kinds of wrenches into an otherwise orderly plan for reductions in force.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This is true. OP’s manager saw a contingency plan that wasn’t implemented…and they’re trying to fill the positions. But who’s to say that higher management hasn’t instructed HR to block truly filling them for a month while they see how things play out? That contingency plan may still be a contingency.

      One thing I’d bet, if layoffs do happen, though.

      OP’s manager is likely to be on the list if she hasn’t been fired.

    2. Steve*

      Every time I have been part of a layoff, management has sworn there would be no layoffs, or that our department wouldn’t be affected, right up until the day when we found out otherwise.

      I also witnessed a layoff where they had the IT guys disabling people’s accounts all day – then laid them off last.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I saw one layoff where they called an employee into the manager’s office on Friday. They told her, “we are having a layoff on Monday. We need someone to put together 20 folders with the information we need. Are you available Sunday afternoon?”

        Yep – so she came in at 2 on Sunday. The manager was there, doing some other work. He told her, go ahead, do what you have to, and when you’re done, come and see me. So she did.

        She goes into the manager’s office, said she was done, they’re all over there, etc. Manager = “Fine, now go ahead, put together a package for yourself.”

        1. Mira*

          What does that last line mean – “put together a package for yourself”?

          1. BananaPants*

            Mira – it means the employee who they called in to work on a Sunday was then instructed to put together her own layoff package (usually a folder with information about filing for unemployment, COBRA, any severance being offered, etc.).

          2. ancolie*

            It means the company actually needed 21 “layoff folders” prepared, not 20. They deliberately had one of the people being laid off prepare the folders, THEN told her that hey, by the way, you’re also laid off, surprise!

  27. Tricia*

    And maybe because they had 4 well paid employees leave, layoffs were no longer required. Had you all stayed, there may have been a different plan by senior management.

    1. OP*

      They have interviewed people for all of our positions at the same pay and benefits that we have.

      1. Biff*

        Interviewing can be so much song and dance though. They could only hire two of them, for example. Or they could stretch out the process for a long time, essentially avoiding replacing you ntil revenues are in line with what they would want.

        1. OP*

          They are hiring for all four positions as they are not all exactly the samezer. They have acting replacements from other departments covering until the new people are hired, and that cannot last long as all of them are needed back in their regular departments. The company has so far acted quickly to post our jobs and interview people and is not dragging its feet.

          1. SAS Error - it was the ;*

            Do you have any inkling why HR wouldn’t let you rescind your resignation? It isn’t as if the employees in the other departments would care, since this situation disrupts their real jobs and being able to hire for 3 rather than 4 positions would sure make HRs life easier. Hell, taking you back would have saved time and money! Their reaction seems so not in the business’s interest that something weird must be driving it

            1. OP*

              They said they generally don’t let people take back a resignation in any case and there is policy against it once the hiring process for a replacement had began.

            2. OP*

              Also one of my coworkers tried and he got the same answer.

              One other one was already gone and had started his new job and everything coming out happened on my other coworkers last day, where she was moving the next day to a different state and had already paid for a flight and sent her stuff there, so she didn’t bother asking.

  28. NCKat*

    When the official announcement was made, had the OP and her co-workers been replaced? How does she know the positions remained open after they left? If they were not filled and closed, that would have eliminated the need for them to be laid off anyway.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP has repeatedly noted that the company has interviewed replacements with the same compensation packages as OP and their coworkers. The turnover does not appear to have saved anyone money.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Generally speaking, turnover is costly. And obviously, risky.

    2. OP*

      None of us had been replaced but all the candidates for our jobs had been interviewed and the company had made coverage arrangements from other departments. The company updated the website to reflect the acting people in our old positions. The company had posted our jobs for the same pay listed that we were making after each one of us resigned. No one in any division has been laid off and everyone besides my boss says layoffs were never planned.

      1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        I definitely missed this information up-thread. So I take back what I said about the leadership team.

        This really sucks, and I’m sorry. Prior to this all happening, did you enjoy a good and candid relationship with your former boss? Some people lean heavily into being transparent with their team — and in many circumstances that is a really good approach. It really blew up this time, though and it’s not right that your boss never apologized for the error or intervened more on your behalf with HR.

  29. Shadow*

    I’d rat her out. It was inappropriate and reckless for her to withhold that she hadn’t verified that what she was telling you was true. Who does that?! Something tells me she didn’t put In her notice did she??

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m not going to lie, given how badly the manager dealt with this, I think this might be justified.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      I’m sure folks will make good arguments as to why this is a bad idea, but… I would probably flag this one up the chain.

      1. Shadow*

        I might feel differently if she showed some remorse and was actively trying to help fix the situation she caused, but she sounds like she’s trying to completely wash her hands of it.

        I don’t see why she couldn’t at least have said to HR “I know we have this policy, but who do u need to talk to to retain these employees.”

    3. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      But what good would that do? It wouldn’t change the fact that the OP is making 25% less at the new job, has a significantly worse commute, or any of the other sacrifices made.

      1. Shadow*

        Knowing that the circumstances are different than what they seemed might mean the company feels obligated to do something to make the situation better. Maybe it’s an exception to the policy of not taking back resignations, maybe it’s a severance, maybe it’s nothing. But it doesn’t hurt to give them the opportunity to do something.

  30. Anonyforthis*

    Sorry, I have not read through all the comments but I would think it looked REALLY odd all four of you left to pursue other opportunities at the same time. I don’t know, something smells really fishy here, beyond your manager telling you all were going to be laid off, and not being able to rescind your resignations because you were fed incorrect information. Your manager did nothing to help any of you stay employed after finding out the layoffs did not come to fruition? I wonder if she even spoke to her manager at all, or is just making stuff up to cover her butt from both ends. I think there is definitely more to this situation but you will probably never know the real reasons behind what occurred.

    1. OP*

      I was there when she spoke to her manager and he also told us there were no plans for layoffs. The company posted all of our jobs listing the starting pay as the same as what we were making, not lower and they have already interviewed all the replacement candidates. I don’t know if she did anything but HR said it was policy to not allow resignations to be reminded once the hiring process started so there was nothing anyone could do. They said they usually don’t let people record them anyways.

      1. Shadow*

        I think they’d at least reconsider or discuss it with higher ups if they knew your boss misled you into believing you’d be laid off

      2. Michelle*

        Hi OP
        Did your former employer not do exit interviews? I have read most of the comments here and your answers but it really strikes me as strange that an entire department of people left at basically the same time and no one in HR thought it was a red flag.

        I’m really sorry this happened to you and hopefully after a year or two at your current company you can find something else. I know most people try to stay at least 2 years at an employer before moving on but maybe a fantastic opportunity will come your way sooner and that can be a great reason to move on sooner.

        1. OP*

          I have never heard of an exit interview before today and its not something the company does.

          The process there is that you resign to your boss. Your boss sends HR an email saying you got a new job (or whatever the reason is) and when your last day is. HR forwards the email to you to confirm your boss is correct.

          1. SAS Error - it was the ;*

            Your ex-boss is a jerk and the HR policies at ex-job are stupidly rigid. I’m sorry this happened to all of you

      3. mcr-red*

        Doesn’t mean they hired any of them. I’ve seen them interview for positions, and then decide nope, cheaper to make it part of other people’s duties.

        1. OP*

          In this case the division needs 4 people at minimum as each job is not exactly the same. They posted for all 4 positions, interviewed for all 4 positions and have brought in 4 people from other departments to temporarily replace until the new hires come on board. Those people can’t stay for long because they are needed back at their old jobs.

          1. Biff*

            OP, I realize you are upset, but I feel like you are really pushing a narrative in which the only option in that the manager must be punished and is painted as evil. Clearly, many of us feel that there may be more nuance to the story. Can I ask why you need to com mentors here to agree with your take on the scenario so much?

            1. OP*

              My apologies if I am coming across that way. I am just trying to make clear that we are definitely being replaced because there was never any plans for a layoff because my manager got it wrong. A few people have stated that maybe layoffs are coming or that we only we not laid off because we left first and I just want to present the correct information because it is not the case. Sorry if I caused any offense.

              1. Karen K*

                I don’t think you’re coming off that way at all. I think you continue to present the details of the situation in a calm, concise manner.

            2. Steve*

              The only narrative I see the OP pushing is that the manager was incorrect, there was not going to be a layoff, and all four team members are definitely being replaced by new hires getting the same pay and benefits.

  31. shegotzen*

    OP, aside from the discussion of the circumstances of your manager’s decision, her reaction since, what’s within your power to do now, etc., I want to address your actual question: are you right to be mad at her? And my answer is an unequivocal yes. You are entitled to have any feelings about anything in the world and none of them are wrong. That doesn’t mean you’re right to act on them, and in this case your hands seem pretty tied anyway, but please know that you don’t need anybody’s okay to be mad at somebody, whether because they cost you a livelihood and caused dramatic upheaval in your personal life without so much as apologizing, or because it bothers you that they happen to like pears.

    For what it’s worth, I’d be pretty mad at her too, but ultimately, how I’d feel in your situation has no bearing on what you’re allowed to feel in yours.

  32. Jessica*

    I’d say that this is a tough lesson on why one shouldn’t act on information until it’s been confirmed. I mean sure, OP can be mad at her manager for starting it, but what good is that going to do at this point? Everyone screwed up. I sympathize completely, having been laid off several times (dot bomb era) with some notice, no notice, and even anti-notice, where they blow sunshine up your butt and say, “Of course no more layoffs are coming!” and then two months later you get laid off. It really sucks, and it’s very difficult to plan for.

    OP, maybe one day you can laugh about the time that you accidentally laid yourself off by mistake. You did the best you could with the information that you had at the time; your manager did as well (A for intention, F for execution), and it bit all of you in the ass. Now you took a paycut, and your manager lost half a team and a ton of credibility. Ooooooops. But there’s nothing to be done at this point–you already quit, your company said “No takebacks!” and there’s no real recourse for “I made poor career choices based on faulty information”. Move on and look forward.

    1. Pontoon Pirate*

      I really disagree with your positioning on this – it was presented as absolute fact, OP has stated she and her colleagues could not afford an employment gap, and OP was effectively presented with a bad choice (Hobson’s or Sophie’s depending on your POV, I guess) that has dramatically changed her life. To say she elected to make a poor career choice rings a bit dishonest to me in context, considering you also agree she did the best she could with the information she had – again, information that was presented as fact from a previously, historically trustworthy person.

    2. Shadow*

      Do you verify that your manager really is passing on direction from higher ups before you do the work?

      It’s pretty reasonable, required many times, to believe what your manager says.

    3. Jadelyn*

      “the time that you accidentally laid yourself off by mistake.”

      That is a gross misrepresentation of what happened here, and is honestly extremely rude and belittling to the OP. As is framing a SURVIVAL CHOICE – because let’s be real, that’s what it is when someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to be unemployed makes a desperate move like taking a lower-paying job in order to prevent having any gap in income – as “poor career choices”. Calling the choices someone makes when they’re between a rock and a hard place “poor career choices” is flippant and disrespectful in the extreme.

    4. Annonymouse*

      Also the manger lost the entire team not half.
      Because of her bad information which she repeated regularly.

      No caveats or trying to confirm it. Just “You’re going to be jobless in June.”

      The fact the workplace isn’t questioning that is not good.

      Is it possible for OP to communicate to the HR department to just say:

      “I want to clarify why I left awesome job. Manager told whole department we would be laid off in June and as none of us could afford to be out of work so we took other jobs based on that information.

      We all loved working for you and would not have moved on if we didn’t believe we were going to lose our jobs.”

      1. Leverage those Optics*

        Honestly the place sounds like a bit of a shit show (pardon my language)

  33. Dzhymm, BfD*

    Note that it’s entirely possible for layoffs to still happen. In my experience, whenever a company says “There are no plans for any layoffs”, the axe usually falls not too long after…

    (This is right up there with “We have full confidence in Fergus”, followed a month later by “Fergus is leaving to spend more time with his family”)

      1. Biff*

        I think anytime a company finds itself in the position of ‘selling’ a new hire, they should wonder why said new hire isn’t selling himself to the people. Real world example here, Oracle hired Mark Hurd amid rumors that his conduct was questionable at HP (it was a known secret in Silicon Valley that he behaved inappropriately in a myriad of ways.) Tada! 6 years later, Oracle is embroiled in a DOL dispute over sexism and racism in hiring and compensation practices.

        I realize that’s high level, but anytime you need to reassure an entire team, department, organization, etc, that “Fergus is great at blah blah blah, and we’ve got great confidence that he can man the wheel during turbulent times….” you should take a step back and consider why that isn’t patently obvious.

  34. Emily*

    OP, I am so sorry about your situation.

    It is unfair on so many levels, for you and your former coworkers. Best wishes for your career. I hope that you are able to move on in a positive way, even though it’s difficult.

  35. Thinking Outside the Boss*

    For the OP, it might be worth it for you and your coworkers to sit down and just talk to a lawyer about it. Here in California, the courts have found that employment contracts have an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Usually those kind of cases involve someone who was fired. However, the manager here was so reckless with the facts that maybe you have a cause of action against the employer. It doesn’t hurt to find out whether you do have any legal rights under your state’s or your country’s laws.

    As for the manager, I’m not so charitable about the manager’s motives. I’m not buying the whole “I’m just trying to help” angle. And for this manager, as the OP mentioned above, to not feel bad about what happened just makes my blood boil.

  36. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    One thing I’ve learned – if there’s a rumor floating through the office – it’s probably true AT THE TIME THE RUMOR FLOATS THROUGH THE OFFICE.

    One of the reasons managers keep this info under wraps is that they may want to back down – once the info becomes public they can’t.

    They also don’t want to lose control over who gets cut and who gets kept. If the signals float through – people start looking, and the law of nature states that those who are most adaptable survive – not necessarily without a move.

    Surprised that when people starting jumping ship – this layoff rumor didn’t come out in the exit interviews.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Right. But OP made it a rumor when she repeated it to her staff. Whether it was planned as a layoff, or a contingency plan, we do not know. Sometimes, layoffs are thwarted when the info leaks out.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            you’re right – my bad. I should have said “the manager made it a rumor when she repeated the info to the staff.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, but you’re saying rumors are true at the time they’re floating around. But it’s really normal to have contingency plans that are truly not the intended plan.

    1. OP*

      They don’t have anything called an exit interview. One each of us resigned our manager would let HR know that we were leaving for another job (or for whatever reason) and when our last day is and HR would forward us the email and confirm.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        That’s somewhat bad. In my entire career – when I have voluntarily resigned from a position I have ALWAYS had an exit interview. A well run company should be concerned and at least try to get to the bottom of the turnover problems, if it is a problem.

        Sometimes the exit interview is a sham, where upper management really doesn’t care about turnover.
        Sometimes employees won’t be honest and forthcoming, but “fear of a layoff” usually is conveyed.

  37. BethRA*

    I can’t give the Manager slack for “trying to help.” In every lay-off I’ve been exposed to, the lists of who leaves and who goes seems to be in flux almost up to the last minute. So even if the company was planning to let people go, the idea that a list from several months out would be a good basis for career decisions doesn’t pass muster. I feel like someone in her position should have known better, and should also have not made the leap from “there will be layoffs” to “there will be layoffs and you will not get a warning or severance” (the latter seems uncommon, no?)

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, OP, it really stinks.

    1. KellyK*

      I’m not sure how common or uncommon it is, but since she cited specific dates, those were probably in the plan. Not giving notice or severance may have also been in the plan.

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      The latter isn’t uncommon, especially if layoffs are planned due to funding shortages. It’s not ideal and not fair, but it happens a lot, especially in some industries.
      I agree completely about not giving her slack though. A manager in her position really should have known to seek confirmation whether through confronting her boss or asking in a more round-about fashion. And if she wasn’t going to do that she should have given more caveats when she delivered the news. “Funding is uncertain right now, I’ve seen things that suggest layoffs that would look like this. Think about how that would impact you if it did happen. Please keep in mind these plans often change.”
      If she didn’t have a good enough sense of how organizations work, as a manager, to realize that the space between February and June is huge, she really needs discipline. I would expect her word to have authority to her team, its her job to judge this carefully.

    3. Annonymouse*

      Also the list didn’t have specific names on it (it might not have had specific departments on it). It might have said design staff reduction 20% or staff reduction 30% or whatever.

      So for her to say as a definite “You will be laid off in June.” When her evidence didn’t support that and without clarifying it causing an entire team to quit and make major life changes based of it without a single apology?

      Yeah, I’d not let her off the hook either.

  38. The OG Anonsie*

    Aside from the one linked, haven’t we seen like three different “I found a document on the printer that said layoffs would be / may be coming” letters? Jeezy creezy people need to learn how to print to the right place and pick their crap up off printers.

    1. NW Mossy*

      A few years ago, we switched to a print server system that defaults jobs to “hold print,” where they won’t print until you physically go over to the printer and touch the button to release it. I take it a step further and set mine to “lock print,” where you have to enter a passcode to release. We rolled it out as a paper-saving measure, but it’s also helped to cut down on the number of “whoopsie, don’t look at this!” on the printer.

      Well, at least if you’re not an admin I used to work with who was somehow able to subvert the default (I wouldn’t have thought her tech skills up to it, TBH) and go right back to leaving stuff on the printer for days, including things related to her own somewhat dramatic personal life.

  39. not so super-visor*

    I wonder if there actually WAS a plan to lay everyone off and then things changed. I could see management denying it later. Maybe I can just see it because it happened to me. We were all told that we were being laid off. As the person with the least seniority (less than a year), I was told that I wouldn’t get a severance package. I panicked and took an entry level job somewhere else that paid a lot less and left right away. Then 2 weeks before what would have would been my last day if I’d stuck it out, they announced that things had changed and there was no need for the layoffs. Boy, was I ticked. Of course, the company had a no rehire policy.

  40. CBH*

    I realize the manager was looking out for the team; everyone made adjustments to their lives based on a rumor… This might be completely innocent but I find it strange that the manager did not make any adjustments knowing she might be laid off as well.

  41. CBH*

    I place a lot of blame on the manager for not verifying information (or giving more detail as to how she got the info), but what about the person that left the reports in the printer. That’s pretty sensitive material to leave lying around. Why wasn’t it retrieved immediately. That was an accident waiting to happen.

  42. Non-Prophet*

    OP, I’m so sorry this happened to your team. Your manager showed very poor judgment at a critical moment, and her lack of remorse is terrible.

    As others have said, perhaps it’s possible the layoffs are still coming. A big part of my job is developing contingency plans, and they all have phases (“first we trim x. If the budget doesn’t look better in three months, then we trim y”, and so on). Each phase of the contingency plan depends on a set of projections and assumptions, which are just a best guess at the impact of each phase of the contingency plan. All that to say, if the company was seriously considering layoffs earlier this year, I think it’s likely that layoffs will still be on the table for some time, even if the CEO publicly says otherwise.

    Again, I’m very sorry your life was upended in this way. Perhaps it will still be for the best in the end.

    1. OP*

      The company was never considering layoffs and never planned any. No one has been laid off and the company is still hiring for jobs. All 4 of our jobs are being replaced as well. The contingency plan was not written now, it was the generic company plan that included all scenarios. So layoffs were never on the table despite the generic plan.

      1. Non-Prophet*

        I trust that you know the situation better than I do, of course, so please take my comments with a grain of salt.

        It was your grand boss who later confirmed that they are not planning any layoffs at this time, right? Is your grandboss the CEO, or are there additional layers? I ask, because it’s possible that grandboss doesn’t know the whole story either. In my org, only the Pres and EVP would know all the details of a contingency plan (genetic or otherwise).

        But in any case, to answer your original question: I agree that you’re justified in being mad at your manager. Even more so because she is showing no remorse or regret. But I also think it’s worth remembering that she did this out of a desire to help you, even though she bungled the situation terribly. I imagine it won’t be long before she finds herself either fired or moved to a position with significantly less responsibility (and if your former company doesn’t recognize that there should be consequences to her actions, I would seriously doubt senior management).

        1. OP*

          The c-suite manager, all the executives, the board of directors and my great-grand boss all confirmed there was never any plans for a layoff and that the contingency plan was written years ago and they were referring to it now. My ex-manager and her boss have also admitted she was wrong also.

          1. Non-Prophet*

            Ah, okay. Thanks for the clarification. I was thinking that it was possible that grandboss still didn’t know the full picture, or was keeping up a facade in order to avoid destroying morale company-wide. But it just seems like your manager was 100% wrong. I’m so sorry. What a mess.

            Good luck in your new position!

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            Independently? Privately? Or at The One Big Meeting to Reassure the Worker Bees That All is Well?

            1. OP*

              All of three. Privately to me. To my manager with me and my coworkers there to hear or read it. And at the big meeting.

              Alison asks that those who submit questions are taken at their word that they know the facts and are staying them. I’m curious as to why you and a few others don’t seem to believe me when I say that my boss was wrong and there were never going to be layoffs.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                Okay. Just to be clear I’m not doubting you, I’m doubting them. For that many people to evidently be aware that this is a horrible misunderstanding but to refuse to make it right because, My God, we can’t ask HR to go back on a policy, means either a) your old company from the top down is run by Incompetent Loons or b) they are lying.

                Either way, your ex-manager isn’t the only person who sucks, and I’m sorry for your financial hit I almost guarantee you’ll be glad you left in few months.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              See above re: cross examining. The OP has left a lot of comments here that answer your questions; can you look at those rather than asking her to repeat herself?

              1. Biff*

                Sorry, trying to track multiple threads. I’m sure she has answered it and I’m just not finding it effectively.

          3. Barney Stinson*

            I realize that everyone has sworn on a stack of bibles that “NO LAYOFFS” but I urge you to take even that with a grain of salt. Management for most companies would lie up to the bitter end.

            1. OP*

              My boss was wrong. They had to change some stuff to save money but layoffs were never on the table and no one has been laid off. I don’t know what else I can say.

              1. Gadfly*

                Just so many of us have been told “no layoffs” for months or longer and then out of nowhere, layoffs. It makes “no layoffs” almost more of a warning flag than a reassurance. But as none of us can see the future, I guess it is something time will tell in a month or three.

              2. Barney Stinson*

                My comment isn’t directed so much at your situation, but more to the general. It’s a caution: executives must keep their ruminations about drawdowns and layoffs to themselves, and swear forever that nonono layoffs, up to the instant that they start cutting packages.

                Just as a manager who has really been notified (again, not your manager, necessarily) that her team is getting axed must not say anything and actively lie about it if asked, up to the minute where the real announcement is made.

                The only proof that layoffs aren’t happening is the fact that layoffs haven’t happened. Yet.

                Wow. That got dark really fast.

          1. Kbo*

            This sucks so hard, OP. I have no good advice, only virtual support from a stranger on the Internet.

            I hope it gets better soon, and maybe you will have a happier update for us in the future.

  43. ArtK*

    Several times in the past, I’ve found myself in the unenviable position of knowing about pending layoffs and who is involved. I’ve even been asked “who can we lose?” — this was all as a technical leader, not as a manager, BTW. Although I would have *loved* to have given people some warning, that could easily have backfired as it did in this case. Frankly, if I had done it I would likely have found myself on the same list, no matter how necessary to the project. OP’s manager really messed this up and the lack of remorse is infuriating. No matter what her motivations were, she messed up, big time. As they say, the road to hell…

    Honestly, though, I think that the OP and the other employees jumped the gun out of panic. Yes a trusted source told them this information, but as many have pointed out, plans can change. I would have been polishing my resume and activating my network, but not jumping ship. There’s always the possibility of a decent severance package and if you bail too soon, you lose out.

    1. OP*

      She said we would be laid off for sure in June (she told us this in February), that there would be no notice and would likely have our last day on the same day we were told and that there would be no severance. She said this more than once. She kept up this for 3 months. She was our manager and she presented it as a fact and said it was for sure.

      As I said in my submission, none of us could afford to be without jobs (especially if there was no severance) and couldn’t risk being without a job when unemployment ran out. Maybe you are well off enough financially or live in an area with a strong job market but not eeveryone is as fortunate as you. I would have been in dire straights had I lost my job without a new one lined up and my coworkers were the same. We did what we needed using what we were told.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        She kept it up for three months based on one piece of paper in February? Good lord. That’s massively bad judgment. And yeah, if I heard that from her that often, I’d bail too.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’m with you, I would NEVER EVER tell people.

      No matter how solid I was (and I would know that random papers in the printer were not official).

      Now, I might say, “As you know, profits aren’t what they want, and in those situations, layoffs are always a possibility, and our team could easily be a target. What that means is, Stay loose, get your resumé ready, don’t make any big financial commitments until things have a chance to shake out.”

      I agree with you on the panic–layoffs often come w/ severance pay, so it may not make sense to jump ship too soon!

  44. Jaguar*

    OP, I’m wondering, with all the discussion here about who should have said what, when, and who is to blame, since you’re participating in the comments, what do you feel should have happened after your ex-manager found those documents? That your manager not say anything at all? That the manager be more clear about what the information is and where she got it from? That the company itself be more transparent with everyone from the start? etc.

    1. OP*

      I think she should have spoken to her manager first to find out more.

      Or if she did tell us, don’t present it as a sure thing to your subordinates who trust you (you will be laid off in 4 months for sure, you won’t have any notice for sure and your last day will likely be the same day you were told about the layoffs, you will not get severance for sure).

      1. Biff*

        Do we know that she didn’t confirm with her boss?

        Say I find a printout that says my job is dead in two months. I talk to my boss, she tells me that my entire department (mobile teapots) is being merged with our “on-demand” teapots department. Since I found the printout, she tells me the precise details — I’m getting axed on thus-and-such date, and they are going to offer me severance, etc, etc. It’s a sure thing.

        I make plans based on this.

        Surprise, Surprise, there’s a huge kerfluffle in the management chain of “on-demand” teapots, and suddenly, they are going to keep the mobile teapots management instead. My job is safe. But oops, I already quit. My boss didn’t lie to me, she gave me exactly the truth as she knew it, and it was absolute a sure thing, at that time. But it changed.

        1. OP*

          Yes. She never spoke to her manager until after the meeting (3 months after she told first told us) She got things wrong. There were never plans to lay anyone off. She based everything off what she saw in the printer only.

          1. Biff*

            Hmmm, that’s kinda weird. But it’s STILL weird to me that HR won’t take you back. That seems really, really odd.

        2. Biff*

          To take this further, read the archives here. You’ll find that companies will often say one thing and do something else entirely. We’ve had people being told they are track for promotions who get handed a PIP in the meeting that they thought was going to be about the new position. We’ve had people get fired only to be called the next day and asked why they weren’t at work. People have been hired for jobs that, ten months later, they still aren’t doing because the old person never left.

      2. Jaguar*

        Thanks for responding.

        How do you think things would have gone down if you or one of the under employees under your manager’s supervision had found the printout instead?

      3. Perfect Tommy*

        OP, I think your suggested course of actions would have been much better choices for your manager to take. I feel so sorry that this has happened to you. I hope this does not make it harder for you to trust information given to you by future managers. Hang in there.

  45. Blue eagle*

    What I’d like to know is – was the manager ever looking for a job? If she told her staff that the entire staff would be laid off, that would include her, right? So, how is it that all of the staff found new jobs and quit but it seems that the manager who spilled the “fake news” beans did not find a new job and quit. In the OP’s shoes I wouldn’t be so mad if the manager had found a new job and quit too, but seeing as how she is still there and hasn’t been negatively affected, I would feel just like the OP.

  46. Critter*

    Wow. The more OP shares with us in the comments, the more appalled I am. I think you made absolutely reasonable decisions, and I would be pretty angry. Not only did the manager not do their due diligence with their manger, they presented this as a definite, and feel no remorse for how it played out? That’s bananas.

    I also don’t think this is overreacting because it may be a type of position where they aren’t paid terribly well to begin with, and for a lot of people it’s very important to have as little time as possible between jobs. I can imagine this exact scenario, every detail, playing out at one of the companies I used to work out. You did the best you had with the info you were given.

    Also that HR is the suck. I wonder if they would decide to handle it differently if they had all the info?

  47. Barney Stinson*

    Even if she had been told straight out that everyone was getting laid off, she shouldn’t have advised her team. That’s a firing offense.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Absolutely right. I’ve been part of layoff planning – initial impact lists, severance/outplacement/continuation of benefits, how will announcements be handled, etc. We always reminded everyone involved to treat all discussions, documents, and decisions with the highest confidentiality, and to not pre-notify teams, period. This wasn’t because we were trying to mess with people, but because it’s pretty typical for the initial impact lists to change multiple times, up to and including the day of layoff notification. Managers like to pre-notify to soften the blow, but the OP’s situation is exactly why we insisted they not do it. Even when it was okay to pre-notify, no responsible manager would ever share this kind of news in the manner the OP’s boss did.

      The OP’s manager may have had good intentions, but her handling of unproven, taken-out-of-context information was grossly negligent, IMO. If not a firing offense, surely it warrants a PIP on handling company documentation, and appropriate messaging and communication to her team.

      My heart breaks for the OP, and I hope things look up quickly for her.

  48. Mira*

    I usually love reading the comments on Ask A Manager – they’re generally full of great insights and compassion, even on contentious letters like the bird phobia letter and the marijuana-reporter letter. But the comments on this letter are really disheartening me. In fact, I’m starting to feel annoyed on behalf of the poor OP.

    I always believed it’s Ask A Manager policy to take OPs at face value and not try to throw caveats or what-ifs into what they say – ESPECIALLY once the OP themselves are providing clarifications in the comments. The OP here has repeatedly informed people that:
    1. They were informed by their manager that the layoffs were a sure thing, and that there would be NO transition period and NO severance.
    2. They were later informed by senior management that there are to be NO layoffs.
    3. To bolster the truth of point no. 2, the company is hiring ACROSS THE BOARD, and has not only already posted openings for the 4 jobs of the department with the SAME pay and benefits, but that candidates have already been interviewed!

    And yet, despite all this additional info, I can still see that about 70% of the comments are going on about how the OP might have been mistaken and layoffs could still happen because whatever reason. Or worse, going on about how the OP and their teammates overreacted.

    I don’t blame the OP for starting to get rather curt with their replies – if I had to face this, I’d be screaming blue pills at some of the commenters here. Apologies to AAM if I’m getting a bit harsh, but the OP is already in a terrible situation through no fault of their own – they did everything right and still got screwed over badly. Having a deluge of strangers try and pick holes in their story or try to convince them that they are wrong about what happened to them must be akin to the rotten cherry on the very stale cake.

      1. Mira*

        I’m sorry you’re having such a crappy time here, and in general. I hope things get better for you and your former teammates super fast, and that you soon find another job that takes you back to your former income level, at the very least.

      2. Sam*

        Yes, seconding this. OP, your patience is commendable. The situation sucks, and being upset is perfectly understandable. She should’ve gone to bat for you with HR, and that she didn’t even apologize blows my mind.

        The possibility that original plans for layoffs could’ve changed or that future layoffs could still happen is irrelevant. She gave her employees, who had no reason to distrust her, unverified information without full contextualization, and people made life-changing decisions based on that info. She bears responsibility for that.

        Best of luck, OP. I hope you’re able to find a job that better fits your needs quickly and that you’re able to put this fiasco behind you.

      3. Annonymouse*


        People really should have more compassion for OP.

        Being told, repeatedly, with certainty that you are soon going to be laid off? Yeah, I’d job search too and take what I could get.

        It’s all fine and well for us to comment on this after its all gone down to say what OP should or shouldn’t have done.

        But it isn’t helpful to go “well you should have known you weren’t going to be laid off and making plans based on information presented to you as certain though false? Too bad, should have waited.”

        I’m sorry you are going through this and hopefully you can reapply at your old work / continue job searching and find something better in the near future.

      4. Bess*

        Yeah…your reaction seems pretty responsible to me. I wonder if the people commenting about overreacting are people who could all potentially live a few months or more on unemployment and savings. I’ve definitely had times in my life (when I was paying off student loans, living in a big city and not really making anything like a comfortable salary) when I was working super-hard, but could maybe have gone one extra month without any money coming in, and then I’d be in real trouble–and I’m in general ultra-responsible with money, so it’s not like I was frittering away instead of saving.

        I also moved cities during a big recession and it took me M.O.N.T.H.S to find even a dreadful, temp, terribly paid job. I’ve never been able to shake that experience psychologically, so even now, when I could probably survive a few months or more if needed, it’d be pretty tough not to go for the security of a different job before it ever got to that point.

        So sorry for your experience, and sorry your manager isn’t taking responsibility. Glad you were at least able to find a different position.

    1. Amy*

      Agreed. I suspect people are responding with what the OP ‘should have’ done differently because there’s nothing we can tell them to do to improve things now, and we’re here because we like giving advice and telling people what to do. But it’s not a compassionate response, or a realistic one.

      If someone posted here, “My manager has told our team that layoffs are coming in June, we’re on the chopping block, and there won’t even be a transition period or a severance package. I don’t have the financial flexibility to go without an income, so I’m panicking about this. What should I do?”, our advice would be to do exactly what the OP did: Start job hunting ASAP, and if you get an offer that works for you, take it and move on. Even the lower salary thing–if we’d gotten an update on this hypothetical post that said “I have a job offer, though it’s for a lower salary than I’m making right now and means a longer commute. It’s not ideal, but the layoff date is looming, and I really need the financial security. Should I take it?”, most of us would probably agree that it’s not ideal but maybe necessary in the short term. As far as I can tell, the OP did everything right with the information they had.

      1. Mira*

        Seriously. The OP did everything any sane, reasonable person would do in this situation. But some of the comments here seem to be convinced that the OP fell short of some godly level of psychic omniscience standards! And those comments about emergency funds and some others insisting that OP must carry some share of the blame are just….what even!? Forget tone-deaf, I’m wondering if some of the commenters here don’t need sensitivity – and life – training! Pronto!

        It’s like they just can’t believe that sometimes, horrible things happen to people for no good reason other than – someone *else* messed up. I know it’s the fashion right now to twist yourself every which way to make out both sides of every issue, and to exist in some sort of moral grey area, but sometimes things really are that black and white.

        1. Amy*

          Right? And as far as emergency funds go…of course they’re good to have. But if the entire department was in a position to not have sufficient emergency funds (which it sounds like at least might the case, considering how all of them scrambled for new jobs), I really start to wonder if it’s just a position that doesn’t pay enough to build one up. And on top of that, haven’t we all been in a position where we weren’t as financially secure as we’d like? I don’t usually go towards religious talk, but I think that thing about “let he who is without sin throw the first stone” applies here.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            And I mean, I do have a significant emergency fund, but even so, if my boss told me–repeatedly! confidently! for three months!–that I was definitely going to be laid off in June and was definitely getting no severance or transition period, I do not think I would go “well let’s wait and see anyway.” If only just because it’s easier to get hired while you’re still employed–and also because my philosophy is that emergency funds should be saved wherever possible for the unforeseeable.

            In fact, I would consider making a plan and job searching right away to be the more responsible thing. So it’s baffling to me to see the OP and coworkers portrayed in some of these comments as having acted rashly or foolishly.

        2. Annonymouse*

          People here can say what they want here about the situation but are forgetting two very crucial things:

          1) It isn’t happening to them or their life so they are at leisure to consider all the options WITHOUT all the pressures and urgency OP had. To them it’s all hypothetical.


          2) They get the benefit of hindsight in this situation.
          They’re coming in afterwards to do the autopsy/recreation of the incident and go “yeah, well the pilot should have turned the plane 90 degrees to adjust for the faulty doohickey. (Which we know about cause of the crash but would have had no way of knowing as the pilot).

          I would have done what OP did. If I had no reason to question my manager, they told me it was certain repeatedly and I couldn’t afford to be unemployed.

        3. Kbo*

          Yep. The commentary is so oddly harsh on this one, even the OP had to say “what happened to taking the LWs at our word”. Disappointed.

            1. Rater Z*

              I am just about down to the end of the comments and one thing has been running thru my mind most of the way.

              We don’t know all the information we need to know to second-guess the OP.

              We don’t know the industry, the actual job, or the location of the job. I suspect OP lives in a semi-rural area without a lot of decent jobs available.

              On the basis of what we know, I think the OP made the right decision and wish the people involved the best in the future. I would hope that each will remember what happened and, in future situations like this (even if not identical), will ask the needed questions with the comment that they went thru this situation before where the underlying information turned out to be completely wrong.

    2. Turtle Candle*

      Same here, and thank you for saying it. I was increasingly boggled at the tone of many of the comments (and impressed at the OP’s patience).

      I think part of it is that it’s really scary to realize that your life can be turned upside down by someone else’s mistake… so it’s psychologically tempting to find a way to go “well but that bad thing couldn’t randomly happen to me because [reason].” Then of course you have to go digging for that reason, whether it’s “OP didn’t think to ask their manager the magic question that would have revealed all” or “OP should have waited it out and started job searching only when unemployed” or even “OP needs more money in their bank account.” Then it feels safer–see, this terrible thing could not have randomly happened to me! (Also I think why people jump to legal solutions–it’s less scary to think about random bad things happening if there’s potentially an authority to make it fair again.)

      The problem is it’s not necessarily true, nor is it helpful or kind.

      OP, I’m really sorry this happened to you, and I’m impressed with your patience and fortitude.

  49. Candy*

    30 years ago my dad was working for a company that announced they’d be closing. With three kids under the age of 10 and my mom not working he scrambled to find a new job before they closed, which thankfully he did. He found out after he left that those employees who stayed to the end were either offered positions in the new office the company was opening in a sister city or given a generous severance. The company didn’t announce these options beforehand though which is why he quit without severance pay to a new job.

    In hindsight you could say that he should have stuck it out to see what would happen, but in reality with three kids to look after he didn’t want to risk it. I guess my point is: shit happens. Yes, you have every right to be mad and resentful and wish things had turned out differently, but you did what you thought was right at the time, which is all any of us do when it comes to leaving a job / searching for work / etc.

  50. MicroManagered*

    Not to turn it around on you, OP, but I think the responsibility here is shared. Your manager jumped the gun and gave you bad information, but it sounds like you all acted on it without finding out how she knew what she “knew” and thinking critically about her source material. If you had thought to ask and she’d said “I saw some document in a printer tray, but I don’t know what the document actually was” — would you have gone out and taken the first lower-paying job you could find?

    I think you have to accept at least a percentage of the “blame” here. (Not that there’s really any blame here because who knows what you would’ve done even if you had known where the info came from?) Maybe some of you would’ve jumped ship anyway, maybe the one guy just needed an excuse to put off a wedding, maybe some of you would’ve stayed on and laughed over this in a couple months. Who knows? Hindsight is 20:20. Hopefully it’s a learning experience.

    1. OP*

      My manager told us the layoffs were a sure thing, and there would be no notice or severance. She said this for 3 months between when she told and when we found out she was wrong. She said it multiple times. My manager made it clear that it was supposed to be a secret and she couldn’t tell us how she found out

      I’m floored that you think the four of us were to “blame” for believing what our manager told us multiple times, or that this was an excuse for my coworker to put off proposing because he really didn’t want to.

        1. MicroManagered*

          I think my comment is being completely misunderstood and it isn’t coming across that “blame” was being used very loosely (partly for lack of a better word and also in response to the initial question of “do I have a right to be mad?”). Feel free to delete my comments!

      1. MicroManagered*

        I apologize if what I said upset you. “Blame” was admittedly poor word choice on my part (which is exactly why I put it in quotes and said “not that there’s really any blame” to qualify–it was the word I chose for lack of a better one). Since you seem pretty riled up in your comments, I’m not going to engage with you in any kind of further debate.

        I hope that this situation turns out for the best in a way that you don’t expect or can’t foresee right now.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          “you seem pretty riled up in your comments”

          uhhhhh you realize she’s just been through a really difficult time with her employment situation, a ton of stress, then found out it was all for naught. THEN she gets interrogated like a hostile witness in the comments here. I’d be riled up too.

          This is an unfortunate circumstance. The only “blame” is with the manager, who was probably genuinely trying to do the right thing but made a terrible mistake.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      It’s pretty cynical to wonder why, after their boss repeatedly and emphatically told them about pending layoffs, the team didn’t grill her about it. I’m pretty nosy but, under the circumstances the OP described, I doubt I would have asked, ‘how do you know this?’, either.

      Maybe the OP and her colleagues will ask more probing questions in the future – once burned, twice shy. But suggesting they share any kind of responsibility or ‘blame’ or whatever for this FUBAR strikes me as insensitive.

  51. GiantPanda*

    OP, it’s not June yet. Despite the company announcement, layouts might still be coming. In fact, if they are reorganizing and cutting costs due to financial issues now, that is not unlikely.

    If not, you are absolutely right to be mad at your former manager, but there’s not much to be done now. Sorry.

    1. OP*

      But my boss was wrong about the layoffs in the first place. There are definitely not going to be any layoffs. The company has already interviewed to replace all 4 of us and are hiring actively in other departments.

      1. BethRA*

        As I said before, I’m sorry this happened to you.

        I’m also sorry you’ve had to keep repeating yourself in the comments. I think you deserve better in both cases.

      2. Leverage those Optics*

        And you are right to be angry, you all are, but you have to let it go because there is nothing to be done about it now. Your boss blew it, you all suffered, and it isn’t fair. It also can’t be fixed.

    2. BethRA*

      Even if there are layoffs, though, it is extremely common for the lists of who’s getting terminated to change. So presenting this as “you are definitely getting axed” – and from OP’s comments, repeating it pretty frequently? – is irresponsible at best.

    1. Noobtastic*

      Thank you for that, because I was getting sick of all the blame being tossed at the OP, and the “Oh, you’re wrong, and they really ARE laying people off,” and the “are you SURE it really is what you think it is?” and all that.

      Gee whiz! The commenters are usually much better than this!

      Also, thank you for telling us about the moderation, because I posted a few comments, and they all disappeared, and I just stopped commenting, thinking my account was broken, and now I know it’s not.

      And I’m sorry you have to go through all that trouble to moderate ALL the comments, even from tried-and-true commenters, because of all that awfulness.

      OP, HUGS to you! (if you want them), and I am really impressed with your patience. Good luck in your future endeavors, and I hope you find your dream job soon.

      And the manager really ought to at least say, “I’m sorry it turned out that way.” That’s not even admitting guilt, just expressing sympathy. She didn’t even do that much? That really irks me. Yes, you definitely have the right to be upset!

  52. JenMidd*

    I would be suuuuuuuuper pissed that she first “swore us to secrecy”, then lied to her manager about what she told (or didn’t tell) the team, and THEN acted like, “ooops, my bad. No biggie – I was trying to help … “. I have a really hard time believing she was a decent manager the whole time considering she didn’t step up to her manager or HR or whoever and try to salvage what she had caused.

    1. bridget*

      Indeed. The least the manager could do would be to fight HR to make an exception to the rule against letting employees rescind resignations.

    2. Noobtastic*

      Yeah, but she didn’t even say “Ooops, my bad!” She just went straight to “No biggie – I was trying to help.”

      Not even a faux-pology of “I’m sorry it turned out that way,” or “I’m sorry you’re suffering,” or “I’m sorry HR is being so intractable.” NOTHING!

      I hope she trains the new team and then gets fired. I suppose the fact that they have to have someone on hand who actually knows how the work must be done is the real reason she has not been fired. I mean, poor judgement and poor people-skills aside, the fact that she spread that sensitive information (Repeatedly! While swearing them to secrecy! So she KNEW it was secret, but repeatedly blew it, anyway. The mind boggles!) alone is usually a firing offense.

  53. Luke*

    I’m withholding judgement on the matter,and here’s why.

    In an ideal world every company would carefully plan their staffing decisions and communicate relevant details so that there’s as little confusion as possible regarding hiring,promotions,layoffs,and transfers.

    Unfortunately most of us don’t live there. Far too many companies treat staffing decisions like classified military data. In some firms important personnel decisions are made last minute with little or no communication to the troops. The fact that a manager resorted to inferring information off of a random printed document vs communicating with her boss for confirmation says volumes about that firm’s deplorable staffing culture.

    The lesson learned here is firms shouldn’t treat basic personell decisions like top secret NSA data. Without clear communication on where folks stand in a company,they’ll resort to rumors and tea leaf reading for answers-or documents left on a printer by mistake.

    1. Noobtastic*

      You have a point.

      However, don’t you think the manager at the very least should give some sort of apology? Yeah, she had good intentions, but she still wound up causing a LOT of pain to her entire team, and she can’t even bring herself to say, “Ooopsies!” or “I’m sorry you’re suffering.” or “You have my sympathy.” or “It sucks that HR won’t hire you back.” or “Hey, HR, why not accept their application, and at least put them in the running to apply for their old jobs back?” or SOMETHING?!

      It’s almost as if she’s standing back, admiring her handiwork, and laughing behind her hand at them. “Hahahaha! SUCKERS! My evil experiment worked!” Her attitude here is just atrocious.

  54. Chatterby*

    Anyone else wondering if an entire team leaving and their tasks being absorbed by existing employees from other departments was a big part of the cost-saving that allowed them to avoid layoffs?
    That would be ironic.
    (this would depend on the company size. Giant corporation: no way; under 20-30 employees: maybe)

    1. OP*

      The replacements are only temporary until the new people come on board because they are needed back at their own jobs ASAP.

      Replacements had already been interviewed before any of us had our last day. I’m not sure of the exact number but I can say for sure that there at least a hundred people working there, if not more.

  55. KB*

    OP, so sorry this happened to you. A friend of mine had a similar experience, but basically the company was putting out fake memos so employees would leave of their own accord in order for the company not to pay severances or have unemployment claims.
    I also think it is interesting HR wouldn’t rescind your resignation. I will say this, of the places I worked there have been a couple instances where people try and take back their resignation or come back to the company for various reasons. If they are high performers they are usually allowed back or at least given an interview/ discussion why they left if it was not covered in their exit interview. The fact you did not have an exit interview or at least the option to is also strange to me. Please don’t take offense, it totally stinks.

    The other thing is, for everyone not just OP, you never know when a layoff may happen, so it’s really important to save and have an emergency fund in place in case you get laid off or have to take a job that pays less, etc.
    Good luck, OP!

  56. Narise*

    Is it possible the employees would qualify for unemployment? I understand they are now employed but making less. They didn’t have to quit but we’re told by management they would be laid off. In lieu of unemployment I think you should talk to a lawyer and see if either the company or the manager can be held liable. Just the threat of a lawsuit may be enough to receive severance.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately we have no case for a lawsuit. All of us have jobs now so unemployment is moot, we would have qualified for unemployment but none of us could afford to risk still be jobless after our unemployment ran out.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Unemployment benefits eligibility is very dependent on state, but generally speaking, the philosophy is that benefits are meant to subsidize a job search while the applicant is unemployed through no fault of their own. This isn’t about blame, it’s more about limiting taxpayer expense to situations where unemployment was unavoidable: if you quit your job for almost any reason, even operating on bad information as was the case here, you are ineligible for benefits except for in quite limited circumstances. (And the employees here aren’t even unemployed, they’re just employed in less favorable circumstances than before.) In the event of normal layoff situation, you still don’t want to quit in advance if you want to claim benefits (see also the letter from this morning about resigning instead of being fired). I have a difficult time imagining any way which legal action would be appropriate here.

  57. Laura*

    I have nothing constructive to say aside from good luck OP. Hope things work out for you soon.

  58. Anony Oz*

    I have bit of a legal/ethics question – at what point does an assured representation from your direct manager that you’re being laid off, actually equal that you’ve been laid off? When and how does it become ‘official’ official?

    Usually if someone is laid off, the immediate manager would communicate it – is there any more official communication you should get than that to officiate it?

    I’m really asking, if it’s possible that OP actually would be considered laid off in the eyes of the law from the minute her boss told her, and unequivocally after that by maintaining that representation?

    I realise there mightn’t be a black/white legal answer, but I’m interested in exploring the issue because I’d like to understand more how as a non-manager, someone should view their immediate manager’s representations.

    (Also asking as it may help me think through how wisely/unwisely I acted on some glaring misrepresentations my former manager at ToxicWorkplace made that have turned out to be untrue/factually incorrect.)

  59. MW*

    Far from ideal, but OP, could you reapply for your old position? HR said that they couldn’t stop the wheels on the hiring process… that sucks, but what’s to stop you from applying? You’d have a lot of ‘relevant experience’, having done the dang job for years already.

    Did you give HR the context when you tried to recant your resignation? I’d have hoped there’d be some additional clemency since you’ve been so thoroughly wrong-footed by your boss.

    As a side note, this is a pretty good argument in favour of notice periods and severance pay. I think in the UK it’s generally harder to drop someone with no notice (zero hour contracts notwithstanding). If the spectre of zero-notice dismissal is in the air, people will jump ship before they know for sure. If you have some sense of security, even if it’s just a month of notice, you’re more likely to wait and see. Not always going to be the case, but from the employer’s PoV, they’d be less likely to lose *an entire team* to rumours.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately I can’t reapply because interviews have already been done, they are that far along in the process.

      HR told me they generally don’t people change their mind once they quit and its policy to not allow it at all once the hiring process has started.

  60. a person*

    Hi OP, your situation really sucks. I’d be angry with this situation and your ex-manager too, and it seems like this is pretty fresh. My two cents are to let the anger run its course so it doesn’t turn to resentment. I second Alison’s advice to look at this the other way around. And, do things to take care of yourself (make time for your hobbies, etc.).

    I’m sending good wishes and positive thoughts to you and your former coworkers. May you all have opportunities for advancement and end up in a better situations with higher pay.

  61. H.C.*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP. The lack of remorse from your ex-manager about the whole thing is especially galling!

    I don’t think there’s any recourse to get your former job back, but maybe you can write a letter to your company executives and/or head of HR about this unfortunate situation—so they can possibly investigate this or possibly learn/share a lesson (don’t leave sensitive documents lying around, don’t spread unsubstantiated rumors, etc.). And it can be cathartic to at least get this off your chest, knowing you’ve done due diligence to inform the company how messed up this scenario turned out for you and your former colleagues.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      I’m curious about how the manager construed a document that named no names as “my entire department is going to be laid off in June.” Let alone the declaration that there would be no notice and no severance.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Yeah, based on this, alone, I think that they could make a good case for secured printing as a cost-saving measure.

        Sure, it costs a bit to make all your shared printers require a card scan or code, and a lot of employees will throw a fit that they have to actually be AT the printer to get it to start printing, but it will save a whole lot of money in wasted paper/toner and even more in wasted people.

  62. Non-Prophet*

    Based on what the OP shared in the original post and follow up comments, it seems clear that several things are true:

    1. Ex-manager mangled this situation badly. She should not have shared the information she found on the printer. She shouldn’t have spoken about the layoff “plans” with any sort of certainty.

    2. Ex-manager is not senior enough to be closely involved with contingency planning or succession planning. If she has been, she wouldn’t have misinterpreted the printouts so wrongly. Even more reason she shouldn’t have been sharing this information with her direct reports.

    3. Ex-manager had good intentions in trying to give her team a heads up, but she messed up badly.

    4. There should be serious consequences for the manager. And it sounds like she’s an experienced manager (7+ years), so this wasn’t a rookie mistake.

    5. Whoever printed those documents and left them on the printer (!) needs to be more careful.

    6. The company appears to be overly rigid in refusing to rehire these four employees. Taking them back would presumably get the department back on track faster than going through an entire hiring and training process with new candidates. Rehiring these folks would also mean that the temporary replacements would be able to return to their own departments faster, which would presumably be better for the company as a whole. The company is either crappy and shortsighted (a possibility), or there is something else at play and senior management is not being forthright with OP (also a possibility). I don’t think we can tell from this letter.

    7. OP and colleagues were negatively impacted by several factors beyond their control, and unfortunately they have little if any recourse. They trusted their manager of many years, which backfired in a huge way. It’s a truly crappy situation, so OP is completely justified in being mad and frustrated at Ex-manager…particularly since she refuses to apologize.

    OP, best of luck to you.

  63. Jill*

    Boy this makes me glad I work in government (for once!). In my organization, had a manager had, even a “secret” conversation like this – while in their capacity as a manager – and employees acted on what they were told they’d all have standing to make a legal stink and appeal for their jobs or a similar position back.

    And the manager would be out the door.

    I am so sorry this happened to you, OP! It’s incredibly callous of your manager to not even express any regret or mortification about the ripple effect of her words!

  64. Tedious Cat*

    Wow. I’m so sorry this happened to you and your coworkers, OP. I hope for better opportunities ahead for all of you.

Comments are closed.