So You've Been Laid Off or Fired. What That Really Means.
Posted October 28, 2014
Recently I wrote an article on another site about layoffs at a local hospital.
Some of the comments from people to the story indicated the employees who were laid off or terminated were treated unfairly and deserved sympathy and pity. Commenters seemed to think the displaced employees were good people who were now being harmed by the hospital by laying them off. I understand the sentiment and point-of-view, but that does not make it true.
I have not had the time to address this issue, till now, but I think there are some issues worth discussing here.
I've been an employer myself and at one time had as many as 70 employees. I've also worked for companies during my life as well so I think I have a pretty clear view of both sides of this issue.
There are some universal truths many people just are not aware of when they are an employee. No matter how you feel about how much the place loves you and what an awesome job you've been doing; any day can be your last day. Your employer does not owe you a job tomorrow or in the future.
Being fired or laid off to many feels as if you are defective in some way. If you were fired for cause, well then maybe there are some issues you need to address.
When it comes to getting fired for cause, I once had a Human Resources Manager, Kevin Keith, who told me something I've never forgotten. I was stressing over having to let an employee go and he said, "You don't fire people, they fire themselves." He was absolutely right. People fired for cause typically did something they should not have done or did a really bad job of delivering the labor the employer hired them for. Unless you were fired for doing a bad job you need to get past the negative internal emotions of losing your job.
If your employment ended because of business reasons, your termination from the company has nothing to do with your value as a person or worth as an employee.
Most jobs are at-will, meaning an employer can terminate your employment at almost any time and for no reason at all. But that's because an employee is hired to do a specific job, not get employment for life. As crass as it might sound, an employee is a widget.
Employers hire people and pay them for their time and labor to perform specific functions and tasks. That's it. People are hired to perform tasks for the company. You are labor and that's what the employer wants you to deliver in a customer focused and a kind way.
If a business has a change of circumstances, often out of their control, they have to reduce expenses to attempt to make the business viable moving forward. Typically the largest expense a business has is labor. So people are the first thing to let go to reduce expenses. It's truly not personal, it's business.
An employer may elect to keep lower paid employees with less experience and let go people who have been there a long time and earn more. From an employee point if view it feels illogical. But from an employer point of view it might make the best business sense to attempt to keep the business going and maintain jobs for some.
The lesson to be learned here is that nobody is entitled to any job; tomorrow can always be your last day no matter what you think; and you should always keep your resume up to date and your eyes opened for a job that makes the most business sense for you, since that's what the company is doing.
If you ever get laid off, file for unemployment right away, collect your severance package, and get right back into the marketplace to sell your labor to a company that needs it.
Now, any job you might find might not be at the same pay rate or job title but when your limit to jobs is dictated by the geographic area in which you live, you'll just have to take what you can get, and that might be less pay because in life you are not entitled to anything. If you want more pay and a better job, you might just have to relocate to where the jobs are.
It is unfortunate when people lose their jobs. It impacts their personal and financial lives. It can lead to depression, feeling less self-worth, and make you doubt yourself. All of those emotional feelings are normal and natural but the problem is none of that might be true when viewed from the outside.
And all of that being said, I truly cared for all of my employees and was greatly disappointed when someone did something stupid that forced me to fire them. And when I had to lay people off for business reasons, I was a big weenie and cried because it really hurt to do that.