Important Notice:
This site has moved to, please update your bookmarks. If you were looking for a specific post, you can use the site search option, archives, or categories at the new domain to find it. Thank you!

Friday, May 14, 2010

can I ask my employer to lay me off?

A reader writes:

I work for a major financial services company. I no longer wish to work for that company but don't want to just resign. The company has been laying workers off and is planning more layoffs. I don't want to feel like a sitting duck. I also want to leave and focus on a non-competing business that I recently started. Should I ask for a package because I wish to leave? I am hoping to get some perks and professional references if I seek a package. What would you advise?

You're planning on leaving regardless, right? If so, you have nothing to lose by approaching your manager about the possibility of being a voluntary layoff in the next round. If they're planning to do layoffs anyway, they may be relieved to get volunteers and you could save someone else from being cut.

That said, there's no guarantee that they'll accept your offer. If yours isn't a position they plan to cut, it doesn't make sense for them to lay you off. So you should be prepared for them not to take you up on it ... and, depending on the culture there, it might be awkward hanging around much longer after you've told them you're ready to leave. But it sounds like you want to leave either way, anyway.

If you're close to your manager and have a relationship of trust, you might be successful running this by her off the record and getting a better sense of how this proposal is likely to be received. Good luck!

P.S. I'm asking the Evil HR Lady, who has more experience with layoffs than me, to weigh in too.


Evil HR Lady said...

Thanks! Layoffs are my things.

Yes, you can ask to be laid off. People do it all the time. (In fact, I asked once and they said no. Who would do the layoffs if they laid me off?)

But, here are the problems with asking to be laid off.

1. They might say no, but now your boss feels rejected and everyone knows you aren't engaged in your work. They know you are out searching for something new. The result is, you can lose a lot of your power in this situation.

2. They might say yes. You would think this is a good thing and it might be. I've had several people who volunteered for layoffs thinking, "Gee, I get 3 months of severance to sit home on my rear end, eating Cheetos and watching Oprah!" But they don't think past that 3 month mark. Then you've got no job and no income.

When the job market is hot, it's a pretty good gamble. Right now it's not. Could you get a new job before the severance runs out?

3. Asking leaves you hanging in limbo. Many companies don't say, "We're having layoffs June 1." You just show up to work June 1st and get called into your boss's office and that is that.

The other thing is, you may tell your boss you are interested in going and she may tell the decision makers but they won't tell YOU until they do the layoffs on a date that they won't release.

I realize this happens if you haven't volunteered as well, but people who are pretty sure they'll get laid off have a tendency to want to hold out for the severance. They end up turning down job offers or not looking as hard as they should because they have "free money" coming up.

4. Make sure you understand what the severance package really is before you ask for one. Does it cover a health insurance extension? Does your payroll process it as salary or as a bonus? (If the latter, the witholding rate is the same as a bonus. Yes, you can get it back when you file your taxes, but it doesn't give you a massive check now.)

Do you have to repay if you get a job? Can you apply for unemployment? Will the company fight your unemployment because you were a volunteer?

Anyway, some things to consider!


Anonymous said...

I once volunteered to be laid off because I had already been accepted to grad school and was planning to resign in a few weeks anyway when they announced a layoff at the company. They did not accept my offer and laid off 9 coworkers.

Anonymous said...

I recently asked to be laid off, and my company was great about it. Severance, kept me on the health care, and didn't object to unemployment. I will say now though that it IS a little scary. I thought that it'd look fine if I said I was laid off, and maybe make me a better candidate, but that's not the case. Be prepared for a long job search in this market, and don't think the pity story of being laid off will help sway employers at all.

De Minimis said...

I would be very careful with this, and only ask about it if you are prepared for the possibility of being cut loose immediately. At my last job I asked my "coach" [a senior employee assigned to be a mentor] if there was any way he could let me know the results of our year-end evaluations as soon as he could. I told him that I needed to make decisions regarding my rental situation, etc., depending on the outcome. I ended up being let go the very next day. They would have done it eventually, but it accelerated the process. I think anytime you have that type of conversation, you have to be prepared for an immediate exit.

Mneiae said...

Sounds like a voluntary layoff is the way to go. Evil HR Lady is probably on the money. I hope that the questioner already has something lined up.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone would want to volunteer to be laid-off, and probably only be the one to complain later about not having a job. Having been the person who couldn't get a job, I despised those who complained and moaned over their jobs, wishing to leave.

But at the same time, if you don't want your job, guaranteed there's someone waiting in the wings ready to take it and be appreciative for it.

As I have said, I have been in a position where I wasn't working, and although I'm nowhere near my dream job, I'm glad to have some cash flow. I do, however, agree with those who are in toxic work environments who probably will be better off.

Call me harsh, but it just baffles me.

Marsha said...

Unless it's a totally impossible situation, find something else first. Things might be different in 6 months, but right now jobs are not easily found. Sit tight and look hard.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:59, you nailed it: There are some of us who ARE in toxic situations and would rather gamble and have the TIME to look for another job, go to interviews, etc--rather than feeling vulnerable every time one needs to take time off for so much as a doctor appointment.

Sometimes, it IS the better outcome. I have considered doing this myself, but when I stopped to think about my particular situation and my particular relationship with my supervisors, I concluded it would not be a good gamble for me.

Instead, I am looking while I am working and just trying to work with what vacation time I have.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:31

I know from friends and on here there are people who have worked in toxic work environments. They put up with it as much as possible, but then there's that one "straw that broke the camel's back." That's why I put that disclaimer in there. I've heard the stories, one recently too.

Good luck with your search.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 4:59

Have you ever worked in an unsafe environment? Have you ever been harassed or bullied at work? Have you ever had to deal with employers refusing to pay you for your hours worked? Ever have to job the job of two or three people and work 50-60+ hour weeks?

So what if there are people looking for work? It doesn't mean that the rest of us who are working should have to put up with unethical or outright illegal workplaces.

We have a constant race to the bottom as far as working conditions are concerned here in the United States. Rather than calling anyone who doesn't enjoy being felt up or working endless hours perhaps we should be more empathetic and support them.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:53

I suggest you reread what I had written and realize that I understand and know there are situations in which people are subjected to hostile and toxic work environments. Once you reread, you'll also realize you overreacted and missed that in my post. However, there are also people who complain about work for the sake of complaining about something, and those are the people I feel frustrated over. That's my frustration, especially in the state of our economy and country.

Anonymous said...

The letter writer already has plans to "focus on a non-competing business that I recently started", so all the concern about not having a job lined up seems to be misplaced.

The real question is whether the person has enough business prospects/savings/etc. to financially weather an immediate layoff without the perks which may or may not come with an at this point hypothetical severance package.

Kristin said...

Right in the middle of the time about a year ago when every company was laying people off, one of my co-workers was really unhappy in her job. We knew layoffs were coming (and that they'd have a minimum 12 weeks' pay severance package). She went to HR and told them how unhappy she was and asked to be laid off.

She didn't get laid off. She ended up giving notice an hour after they did the layoffs. I think HR figured she was likely to leave on her own anyway, and that way they didn't have to pay her severance package.

Anyway, just a thought- volunteering to be laid off could work against you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Unless the company solicits for volunteers, it is not wise to ask to be laid off. It is almost like giving your employer a notice without having a job lined up. And, you may not be selected for the lay off. In fact, your situation at work could worsen leading you to quit. Hence, bide your time and concentrate on developing your business. When that takes off, you won't care about the severance package because you won't need it anymore.

A coworker volunteered to her manager to be laid off so that another person’s job could be saved. She was ready to move on mentally to other opportunities and she had another source of income at home from her spouse. Result, she was not laid off and after several of her close colleagues were laid off, she did not feel like staying and ended up giving her notice anyway shortly after that.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how to handle a retail job in which I haven't worked for 3 months, yet I have been oncall every week. Seems like a win-win for the employer. Should they lay me off??

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad I came across this blog. I am preparing to propose to my boss that she lay me off. I'm in a toxic situation, and during my review she told me about a dozen times that "the job changed." Well it's changed to something I'm not qualified to do. I don't know why they're keeping me around, and in the meantime my boss likes to use me as her personal punching bag. I asked her if she would need to cut staff, and her response was "I don't know." I feel proposing they lay me off will get me out of there and onto my next move, which will be out of state, plus get them whoever it is they think they now want.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my boss told me that she would laid off all employees, and knowing that most of them are not legal I decided to be nice and I asked to be laid off, so the other lady can keep at least 20 hours to work. Today, I stopped by my work, and I was informed that my boss just laid off me and other employer and she kept the other people working, and when I am going to be re-hired I will loose my FT yr around position and benefits. Is this legally right? I am really upset that she preferred to leave a bunch of illegal people to work and she laid me off when I have valid documentationt to work. Please tell me what shuld I do.