Robinhood is only the latest tech firm to announce layoffs, with their press release saying that they’ll be letting go of nearly a quarter of the firm. Shopify, Netflix, Coinbase, Oracle, Tesla, Substack, ByteDance (as in TikTok), OpenSea, Niantic, Unity, and even Crypto.com, whose “Fortune favors the brave” ad with Matt Damon aged like milk, have all laid off a sizable portion of their workforce over the summer.
They won’t be the last in our industry to do some downsizing. Mark Zuckerberg not-so-subtly hinted that there will probably be layoffs as well as pressure on low performers to quit at Meta in a rather ominous way: “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”
With all the layoffs taking place — and many more likely to come — you may be asking yourself this question: How will I know when I’m about to be laid off?
The one sure indicator that you’ve been invited to a layoff meeting
If you get a last-minute invitation to a high-priority meeting with a big or hidden guest list that has a vague name (such as “Special meeting” or something similar), with no agenda and is scheduled near the start of the day, the odds are good that you’re about to be laid off.
The general consensus among HR people whom I’ve talked to on the topic is that layoff meetings should be scheduled with as little advance notice as possible. They’re typically held as early in the day as scheduling and other issues will allow, and preferably not before a weekend or holiday.
Why are layoff meetings announced only at the last minute? It’s to harness the element of surprise, which helps blunt any angry or resentful reaction from employees, and the shock tends to make some people a little more pliant.
Another sign that it’s a layoff meeting
If you see unusual attendees at this last-minute meeting — typically HR people or “The Bobs”, a term referring to the “efficiency experts” from the film Office Space, it’s almost certain that it’s a layoff meeting.
Yet another sign that it’s a layoff meeting
If it’s a video meeting but the organizers have declared it a “camera off / everyone muted but the meeting leader” meeting, it’s probably a layoff meeting.
What to do if you realize that you’ve been invited to a layoff meeting
Do whatever it takes to steel yourself for the bad news. Whether it’s deep breathing, counting to ten, reciting your own personal mantra or firing up your “poker face”, you want to get ready to conduct yourself at the meeting with as much grace, aplomb and professionalism as you can muster.
You’re about to be in the second most important meeting you’ll ever have at this job.
(In case you were wondering, the most important one is the job interview.)
If you work for a decent company, there’ll be one or more follow-up calls, and they’ll be face-to-face. Depending on the size of the company, it might be just your manager or your manager, some other management people, and HR.
No matter what you’re feeling at the meeting, you want your termination to be as good a breakup as possible. This means that you must handle it professionally.
The way you behave at this meeting will set the tone for your departure. If it is full of bitterness, acrimony, and the gnashing of teeth, they won’t be inclined to do you any favors. On the other hand, if you conduct yourself with grace and decorum, you may gain some extra concessions and a willingness on their part to do what they can for you.
If you can remember these questions through the stress of the meeting, you should ask questions like:
- When is my last day?
- What is my severance package?
- How long will my company insurance coverage last?
- When do I have to return the company laptop and other gear?
- What arrangements are being made so I can collect my stuff from the office?
- What do you want me to do with my current projects and files?
- Can I get a letter of recommendation and use you as a reference?
Don’t worry about memorizing these questions — just remember that you should leave the meeting with a clear idea of what they expect from you and what you can expect from them.
When they send you papers to sign, do not sign them immediately. You’ll be given time to look them over. Don’t look them over just yet.
Walk it off
This is going to sound terribly woo-woo new-agey, but I’m going to say it because it’s an important step: at your first opportunity, get away from whatever you’re doing, get out and go for a walk. Physical activity is a key part of this step, so don’t get into a motorized vehicle. You want to get moving, and you want to do it outside, preferably in your own neighborhood.
The walk is important because it gets you out of the house and gives you a chance to clear your head. It gives you a chance to come down from one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever face in your working life and come to terms with what’s happened. It is not the time for figuring out what your immediate next steps are; it is the time to collect yourself for figuring out what your next steps are.
Deal with it…non-self-destructively
No matter how good a job you were doing or how well you served the company, and despite the fact that all this is being brought about by a combination of circumstances over which most of us have little control, you’ll feel like this cat:
It will feel as if you had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. In fact, that may have happened. Perhaps you weren’t found wanting as a person or an employee, but when the bean-counters did the books, they did the math and determined that either you went or the company did.
Deal with the shame, using whatever constructive coping mechanisms work best for you. In my case when I was laid off from my previous company in April 2020, I hit the bike, made some lunch, did a little housework, played a little music on the ol’ squeezebox and got involved in some very severe grenade-launcher-assisted altercations in Grand Theft Auto V:
If you must, have a drink or two but don’t go beyond that. You want to take the edge off, not go on a binge.
Update your LinkedIn — and don’t simply mark the end date of your job:
- Announce your situation in a post.
- Update your profile.
- Reach out to your network.
- Do the things that get your name in circulation, and let the world know that you’re open to work.
What to do if you weren’t laid off
If you escaped a layoff, the very next thing you should do after celebrating briefly is to follow the advice of Florida’s own “Tommy the Tech Recruiter,” who posted this excellent suggestion on LinkedIn:
If you know someone who is on the job search…
No, no they’re not okay. Especially in these times.
They are tired. Exhausted. Frustrated. Scared.
Each passing day brings a rollercoaster of emotions.
Each rejection or time they never hear anything back leaves them questioning or doubting themselves.
It’s a soul crushing process.
If you are on a job search… I am here for you and making it my mission to help shorten how long that search takes.
And if you see someone who was just laid off or has that green banner, comment on their posts for visibility. Share it. Leave a kind and uplifting comment or send them a DM of support.
We can help each other through this.