Why was I laid off instead of my coworker?
(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
I am writing to ask if my position was wrongly eliminated. I am currently going through the last few weeks of employment and soon to start a severance package. I am 46 years old, been with (the) company 16 years, manager for 6 years and a very well respected employee. I was told that restructuring was occurring and my position was being eliminated.
Another manager in the same department, who happens to be 29, manager for 1 1/2 years, not a good performer and with the company for 6 years, had her position "eliminated" but she was offered the same position on a different unit. Another manager from a different unit was promoted to cover both of our positions. I was not given any reason for why my manager position was being eliminated and not the others, other than it was not performance related. Does this sound right?
I don't now about "right," but it does sound "normal." Layoffs are painful, even for the decision makers. Their goals are usually: 1. Save money, 2. Optimize productivity and 3. Eliminate the minimum number of positions.
I realize that the third goal doesn't seem to really matter when you're the one with your job on the chopping block, but I assure you, normal people hate laying people off. They try to do many, many things before taking away someone's source of income. Sometimes their desire to be nice results in bad or even seemingly inexplicable business decisions.
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What do I think happened in your situation? Here's my best guess. With 16 years of tenure, you're probably more highly paid than the 29-year-old manager. Additionally, since you've been in the position for six years without moving up or out, they probably perceive you as having reached your peak productivity. You aren't trying to learn new things at this point because you know how to do the job and you do it well. While this sounds admirable, they are restructuring and want someone who won't resist change.
While you say your coworker's performance is not good, it's rare that a coworker can make an accurate assessment of someone. You don't know if she has different goals than you do. You don't know what she does differently. She may be doing something that you find utterly ridiculous but the higher ups see as having potential.
The third person, who was given both of your jobs, likely has a different skill set as well. She's not taking over one job, she's taking over two. It's likely that they didn't see you as being capable of doing both jobs at the same time, or they thought she could do it better than you could.
Now, is this perception of you and the other two managers accurate? Maybe and maybe not. The decision makers are neither perfect nor omniscient. They could have other reasons for retaining your coworkers over you. They may be easier to get along with. You may be smarter than they are and they find that intimidating. You may have quirks that are annoying, even if they don't impeded productivity.
But, most likely, they are trying to save money and maximize productivity and hurt as few people as possible. If they cut a lower paid person's job then they'd have to find another area to make up the difference, which could mean two jobs eliminated instead of just one, for instance.
The key thing in careers these days is that you cannot stand still and you cannot expect your boss to tell you where to go next. You need to be constantly thinking about your next position and never think that, "This is where I want to spend the rest of my career." Even if that's true, it doesn't mean they will want to keep you in that position, so you must always, always, always be networking and preparing.
As you wrap up this job, try not to let yourself become bitter. It's so easy to do. Unfortunately, though, you need the reference from your current (and soon to be former) boss, and so you need to make every effort to leave on a good note. You need to network with your former coworkers, so you need to congratulate the other manager on the promotion and transfer.
It's really, really hard. You may go home and cry or eat entire containers of ice cream for a little while. But, don't focus on the unfairness of the situation. Instead, ask for help in moving forward. Most people are thrilled help their former employees and coworkers in a situation like yours.
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
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