You Just Got Laid Off: Proper Exit Etiquette

If you've just been laid off, you may have many things on your mind. It's important to maintain a personal and professional profile while leaving your place of employment.

"Exit etiquette"

Layoffs are conducted as necessary exercises in business economics. They're in some ways a survival strategy for the business, to keep it viable. Decisions are made on that basis, and if you've been laid off, that's why.

Anyone who's been through the excruciating experience of a layoff will know that it's a hard moment in your life, by any standards. You won't be alone, either. It's common for layoffs to affect a significant number of people at once.

Those who remain will have more work, but also less security, if another round of layoffs is required. Layoffs are sometimes described as a game of "musical chairs", but in musical chairs, only one chair is taken away, not hundreds.

If you've worked in a place where major layoffs have taken place, it can be like a mass funeral. The entire character of the place changes, almost instantly. Shock is the main problem. Many people are hit very hard indeed.

This is an area where "exit etiquette" is important. You will be fully familiar with the situation, and have your own issues, but this can be a disaster scenario, where others are also suffering. You need to exercise tact and restraint, out of both respect and courtesy to your co-workers.

"Exit etiquette" also applies to your employer. Layoffs are sometimes the sign of the beginning of the end of a corporation. The mere fact of a layoff means the business is potentially in real trouble. It is inappropriate, as well as wrong, to blame any employer for what may well be the destruction of their business.

You won't be expected to be enthusiastic about the loss of your job. However, bear in mind that it's quite possible that the employer has only laid you off reluctantly, as part of a survival strategy. Employers don't lose experienced staff if they can help it, and may well be prepared to re-employ experienced people in other capacities. To recover, the employer will need to re-hire, and will quite probably make a point of recovering any available former employees.

That's partly because of the training costs of bringing in new people. Staff retention, and maintaining the knowledge base of companies, is a major issue in the employment market in the United States. The loss of trained people who are able to train others in their corporate models is now seen as a serious liability, undermining the skills base of employers.

Making a Graceful, Professional Exit

When preparing to leave, give the right impression to your former colleagues and employer:

  • Finish up all your work.
  • Make sure everything is completed to a high standard.
  • Ensure your payroll issues are dealt with prior to leaving.
  • Request references if required in the period prior to departure.
  • Speak to managers regarding the possibility of employment in other capacities. At least one or two will follow up.
  • Leave your contact details with your immediate manager, in case they need to get in touch regarding your previous work.

Walk out with a clear mind and leave a good impression.