You're Fired! How to Leave a Job With Grace If You're Laid Off or Let Go
One of the most challenging things to do is to be gracious when you feel you’ve been wronged.
And, when the situation is one where you’ve been terminated from a job, it can be especially difficult to not become angry and vindictive.
A colleague was recently laid off from his job at a major company. He sent me and others an email about how he handled the news. Instead of losing his cool, he was gracious and professional.
Here is his email:
As some of you know, I was laid-off a couple of weeks ago. I want you to know that I was nothing but grateful for the 10 years of extensive learning and participating in <name of company> which was the most significant part of my professional career development.
Not a single negative thought crossed my mind from the moment I received the ‘separation meeting invitation’ through to this moment. During the separation meeting with my director and HR – I was in a great state of mind, professional, attentive, responsive, balanced and aligned. As such, I was able to provide my director relief through the process as well as maintain many amazing relationships that I have developed over the many years.
What I love about his email is seeing how by being calm and courteous through the lay-off process he not only maintained the positive relationships he made in his job, but he strengthened them as well. I have no doubt that should he need references or introductions from the people he worked with they will be happy to give them.
I’ve been at companies where people were let go and I know it’s a very emotional, difficult time. People feel angry, betrayed and afraid. And in those challenging times it is easy to want to express your feelings to your manager or in your exit interview. While you may feel better after calling your boss a jerk and telling the HR manager the company sucks, you will regret it. You will only burn bridges. Bridges you need.
If you are in the unfortunate position of being laid off or fired follow these steps.
- Do not argue, beg or grovel with your manager or the HR folks when you get the news. You can certainly ask questions to understand why you are being let go, but do not make a scene. It is very challenging letting people go and no matter the reason, it’s usually been carefully thought out. Arguing with your boss will not change her mind and instead will reinforce the need for you to go.
- Listen carefully to what you are being told so that you can understand what transition benefits you will receive, if any, such as unemployment insurance, career placement coaching, a severance, references, etc. This is a good time to ask about these things if they aren’t discussed.
- Find something positive to say about the company and/or your manager. For example: “As you can imagine this is hard news to receive. While I’m very sorry to be let go, I’ve loved the eight years I’ve spent at this company. I’ve made some wonderful friends and have enjoyed working on many exciting projects.”
- If you are given an exit interview, either in person or with a form to fill out, do not be negative. It usually won’t make a difference anyway. Instead, it will just look like sour grapes. Again, find something affirmative to share about your experience at the company and focus on that.
- Invite your coworkers and manager to connect with you on LinkedIn. Ask for recommendations from those who directly worked with you and who you think would be open to giving you a nice plug. If someone doesn’t respond, don’t push it.
- Don’t badmouth your manager or company with your coworkers or employees. Again, stay upbeat and don’t go into details about why you were let go.
Years ago at Washington Mutual, my manager’s manager was dismissed. While we all knew she had been terminated, she never said one negative word about the organization or the people who canned her. She maintained her professionalism and graciousness throughout her leaving, including her goodbye party. I was so impressed.
I hope you never have to face a pink slip. But if you do, hold your head up, stay positive, gracious and kind. Your career will benefit from it.
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