Laid off then called back. What would YOU do?

Worried BusinessmanThe global economy is improving, but it’s not fully recovered yet (by any means).

Organizations find themselves moving quickly to reduce expenses if budgeted nets are not met. They don’t wait for six months, like they used to, to see if profits turn around.

An acquaintance – let’s call him Joe – was a top performer in his organization. He did sales and training for his company’s products and services.

Joe, in his early 50’s, had been with the company for over 10 years and in the industry for nearly 25 years.

He traveled extensively, mostly in the US but periodically globally to support clients. Joe exceeded his sales goals every year and enjoyed regular bonuses because of his high performance.

Two months ago, Joe was shocked to get “the call.”

His boss rang Joe up and got right to the point: “I’m sorry but we have to let you go.”

When Joe asked for an explanation, he was told that corporate was not happy with the organization’s performance. It wasn’t Joe – the company was consolidating roles. Joe was one of over two dozen long-time sales leaders and staff who were being laid off.

Joe got a nice severance package but that didn’t make up for being “tossed aside like an old shoe,” Joe told me.

“The company is cutting off it’s nose to spite it’s face!” he stated. “They’re letting go of top players – exactly the players they need to succeed!”

Joe decided to take a few months off before looking for his next job.

Three weeks later, an administrative assistant from Joe’s old company called him. “We need you back, Joe,” she explained. “Can you start in your old job with us next week?”

Joe was being given the opportunity to regain his job, with the same compensation and commissions package he had before he was laid off. Joe would return to the same long-time customers in the same territories.

Yet, Joe felt torn. The company he’d worked so hard for had laid him off only weeks before. “What’s to keep the company from doing that again?” Joe told me.

What would YOU do?

Should Joe take his old job back? Is his company to be trusted, now? Note your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

I’ll describe what Joe decided to do in a comments post on Tuesday, September 10, 2013. Be sure to check back for the rest of Joe’s story!

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  • Joy Guthrie

    I had a very similar experience. Without going into the laborious details, I will say that I was asked to stay 90 days beyond the timeframe where the cuts were made to transition various activities to others. I did that and transitioned work to a variety of different people over that time. About 80 days into that transition time, “they” called me to ask me to stay on. I had already committed to a move to a different state and politely declined. Then, on the day I was leaving, “they” asked me if I would accept a new position in the new city I was moving to. So much had happened at that point. I didn’t feel as if I could mentally recover. I would also be displacing someone I had mentored and thought very highly of if I were to accept the new position. I declined the new position. I’m not sure what was worse. The wrenching emotions from the layoff or the various means and ways they tried to get me to come back. In the long run, I think it was the right decision for me.

    • Thanks for sharing your insights, Joy. The wrenching emotions you describe are very common – and are too rarely valued by those in power, those that are making these changes.

      I don’t think companies realize that, with every plan, decision, and action, they lay their values bare. This company seemed to value work much more than it valued the workers.

      I think it was exactly the right decision for you!

      Cheers!

      C.

  • Connie Glover

    So many companies seem to be acting in reactive and short-sighted ways with all types of decisions, including situations like Joe’s. They’re not looking closely at the long term ramifications. I think a key question is not only what does this say to a valued employee, but what does it say to their customers? Valued clients of Joe’s will be confused about why he was let go when he was doing such a good job with his relationships, and it will lead them to question the company’s ethics, practices, and leadership. To me, if the company makes this kind of mistake, it is even more unfair for them to come back and say, “Sorry, my bad,” and cause even more angst and confusion for the employee and the customers.

    • You are so right, Connie. Customers don’t miss a thing! When companies make short-sighted decisions like this, customers are left to wonder, “If this is how they treat their employees, how will they treat me down the line?

      Southwest Airlines’ president emeritus Colleen Barrett said it well a few years ago: “At Southwest, employees are our first customer; passengers are our second customer. We have to treat employees well if we expect them to give our passengers great customer service!”

      Cheers!

      C.

  • In the short term, if I thought the severance would get me through to the next job—or that resuming my old job would dramatically slow my job search—I would turn it down. But either way, the long-term play would have to be to aggressively look for something new.

    • I think you’re right on, Neil. Short term, having the old job back is the safe play, but not the inspiring one!

      Cheers!

      C.

  • WHAT JOE DECIDED:

    He turned the company’s offer down.

    Joe came to the conclusion rather quickly that this company wasn’t as people-oriented as he believed it was. “If they had been thoughtful and not so reactive, they wouldn’t have cut so many of us key players . . . much less laying us off all at once,” he told me.

    “What is to keep them from treating people badly in the future? I don’t want to work with the specter of being laid off again hanging over me,” Joe explained.

    Joe found another job within weeks – and couldn’t be happier. He feels supported and trusted in his role with his new company.

    That’s the rest of the story. What do YOU think about Joe’s decision?

    Cheers!

    C.

  • Chuck

    Chris,
    Take the job back but counter offer for more money no that Joe’s resume is upgraded with the success he has had with his “former” company. Make the stakes high. Nothing to lose. If they accept, fine, BUT still actively pursue another place of employment that puts its people before its
    executive bonuses.

    • Great suggestion for Joe to counter offer, boost the stakes for the company in Joe. And absolutely agree with the suggestion to actively pursue employment with a “great place to work”!

      Cheers!

      C.

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