Dear Evil HR Lady,
There are rumors swirling that layoffs are happening soon–like in the next week soon. Managers are always in closed door meetings and then when asked what the meeting was about, they can’t look at us in the eye and make some lame excuse, so we’re pretty sure the layoffs are coming sooner rather than later.
What should I do when I officially find out? I mean, besides get a new job. How should I react? Should I threaten to sue? Weep? Demand to speak to a higher up?
Unemployed by Christmas
Dear Unemployed by Christmas,
First, sorry about that. You may or may not be on the list, but one thing is for sure–companies love to have people off the books by year end, so lots of layoffs seem to happen in the 4th quarter.
Let’s assume you are right and you will be “notified that your position is being eliminated” in the near future. Here are somethings to be prepared with.
1. I hope you work for a large company. Large companies tend to have better severance packages than smaller organizations. Good luck with that.
2. If you are part of a group layoff, there should be a document called a “Summary Plan Description” or something similar included. This will describe what the rules are–how severance was calculated and who is eligible.
3. Are you over 40? If so, look for a list of titles and ages of people in your group who were and were not part of the layoff.
4. After being notified, if an HR person is in the room, turn to her and ask, “Is WARN implicated in this layoff?” W.A.R.N. is a law regarding large scale layoffs and plant closings (as well as other things, but let’s keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer). If it is applicable to your layoff the company is required to give you 60 days notification before stopping your pay. They can do this by telling you 60 days before your last day worked that your job is ending, or by paying you for not working for at least 60 days. W.A.R.N. isn’t applicable to most layoffs, but ask anyway. It will totally freak the HR person out because you’ll sound knowledgeable.
5. Don’t freak out in the notification meeting. You suspect this is coming, so prepare your reaction. It’s okay to be upset, but no excessive weeping or wailing. First, it won’t do you any good. Second, it will cause your boss to notify security that you are a “risk.” Third, you may want to work for these people again and you always want to leave a good impression.
6. Remember that lots of people get rehired after being laid off. After one layoff I was involved in, we ended up rehiring 40% of the people affected. So, don’t burn bridges.
7. Review all your documents before signing them–and consider taking them to a lawyer. Companies will generally negotiate with you and it doesn’t hurt to ask.
8. Finally, if you WANT to be laid off (and lots of people do), go ahead and pull your manager aside and say, “I’ve heard rumors about upcoming layoffs. I’d like to be on the list.” If there are layoffs and you are not on the list, but someone in a similar job is, they’ll probably happily switch you and everyone wins.
Good luck and I hope you find a new job quickly!
Evil HR Lady