Laid off.
December 24, 2008 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I found out that I'm getting laid off and need advice about the whole process.

I found out today that they are doing away with my whole department at the end of the year. I have about a week left of work, but they wanted to let us know in advance so they could address any concerns. They said that on the 30th they'll be calling us in individually to discuss and finalize everything, including severance.

What do I need to know for this meeting? Am I negotiating with them or should I just be happy to get whatever they give me? Are there any questions that need asking, or do I just smile, nod, and sign on the dotted line?

Some additional information: I work for a rather large and international hotel chain. I have a very marketable skill for this industry in this location (speak Japanese, live in Hawaii), but it seems like there are cuts all over so chances of staying with the company are slim. Also, the department I work for is one of the two non-union departments in the hotel.

Any additional insight and information would be appreciated as well.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose to Work & Money (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to hear about this. Being laid off can be depressing as hell, no matter what the reason. I'm hardly an expert, but I'll throw out some bits:

COBRA — make sure you get that all settled before you leave. You will want to have insurance as you find a new job. I've watched friends get into some screwed up situations because they failed to take care of this.

Letters of reference — get them from your boss, boss' boss, etc. If possible, get their home numbers and home email addresses if they're also being let go. You'll want that stuff solid.

Portfolio — I don't know what you do precisely, but if you have examples of your work that would look good, make sure you can take some with you to show off.

Finally, find out if they have any kind of retraining or have industry contacts where you might be able to enter a similar job.
posted by adipocere at 3:56 PM on December 24, 2008

Prepare to sign up for unemployment the day you're laid off.
posted by zippy at 4:10 PM on December 24, 2008

Oh, and this is not, in my experience, a negotiable moment. Do make sure you're getting paid for any unused vacation. You may want to ask whomever tracks your vacation to tell you how many days they think you have unused, so you can compare against your own records.
posted by zippy at 4:12 PM on December 24, 2008

Yes, you can/should negotiate. Spend the next week figuring out what is most important to you. Is it money, insurance benefits, outplacement help, letters of reference, or something else? When you prioritize a list, ask for it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:14 PM on December 24, 2008

a tip based on experience - when I got laid off, the letter concerning my COBRA benefits came from some company I had never hear of - I thought they were trying to sell investment advice and nearly threw in the trash unopened.

and my experience is that the only things that are negotiable are the things that are under your manager's own control. (For example if some people get outplacement and some don't maybe she can get you included.) but the major elements are set by corporate policy and you don't exactly have a lot of leverage (if you don't give me what I want, I will quit??)

since you know it is coming, make sure you don't have any personal stuff on your work computer - copy it for yourself and then delete it off the office machine. Depending on your job and your company, you might want to clean out your email files as well. At the same time, don't leave with any proprietary information (or stuff) that belongs to the company (pricing information, customer lists, software)
posted by metahawk at 4:31 PM on December 24, 2008

Also, would you be interested in moving? If you would be interested in job at another hotel within the company, you might want to start talking to people now about the options. Same if you think there might be the option of a transfer to a different department within the current hotel.
posted by metahawk at 4:33 PM on December 24, 2008

Read what you sign! If your company is the sort that isn't nice to laid-off employees, they may try to get you to sign away your rights. If you do not trust your company (and I further believe that there's never a reason to do so anyway), you should be questioning why they're asking you to sign anything. After all, they don't need your signature to lay you off. If they're offering you a severance package in exchange for signing away rights, make sure you aren't accidentally disqualifying yourself from COBRA or unemployment. A common tactic is to have the employee sign a non-compete agreement - for me to agree to that, I'd have to be offered a larger severance package than I've ever seen offered before. Another common tactic is to make the employee sign that their termination is voluntary - that prevents them from receiving unemployment.

Also, go further than zippy's comment - do sign up for unemployment the day you're laid off. You probably won't receive any money for at least several weeks and there's no reason to lose any further time. If your company is the unethical type, they may try to convince you that you don't qualify since it hurts their unemployment insurance rates. You lose nothing to apply and not qualify.
posted by saeculorum at 4:35 PM on December 24, 2008

I've been through this too many times. First off, it is the economy, not you. Don't think for a minute you did anything to cause this.

I'll second being prepared to apply for unemployment the second you leave your soon-to-be former workplace. You can google what paperwork they need and have it in hand when you go. You may be able to apply online.

In my experience, it is not negotiable. You do want those letters of reference and contact info for those giving references. I messed that up the first time, and it is still biting me. Another second on watching what you sign. The last two times I was laid off, both companies tried some shady stuff. The first one succeeded in getting me to sign that it was voluntary, so I couldn't get unemployment. The second time, I lined out the sections I refused to agree to, then signed, and they were so eager to get me out the door that they accepted that.

I didn't take COBRA either time, and it was ok, but it was a bit nervewracking.

Good luck, and I hope you find another job quickly.
posted by QIbHom at 4:57 PM on December 24, 2008

- Get copies of all of your performance reviews.
- Get letters of rec from your boss and your boss's boss, if you can.
- Find out what your severance package is. Do you have any time off left sitting around? Get paid for it.
- Apply for unemployment.
- Clear out your email of anything personal and make sure that you download the company address book.
- Clear out anything personal on any computer that you use (documents, cookies/passwords) (likely they'll just load a new image on your computer, but maybe not).
- Clear our your desk now.

DON'T SIGN ANYTHING without an employment lawyer looking at it.
posted by k8t at 5:02 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Layoff/severance terms are usually not up for negotiation. Make sure you get the information you need about COBRA, etc, in writing. Make sure you leave on good terms.

The most important thing to remember is, don't take it personally and don't get bitter. Layoffs happen - what counts now is making sure you're ready for the next thing.
posted by pdb at 5:05 PM on December 24, 2008

Print out a copy of your work email address book.

Ask coworkers if you can use them as a reference. Ask managers to give you letters of recommendation (and if they state company policy won't let them, ask if they can give you a personal letter of recommendation -- same thing, but not on letterhead).

Like others have said, sign up for unemployment the same day.

The person letting you go is a human, so this is your "in" for negotiation. They feel terrible -- they have a job, and you don't. Work that angle a bit, and ask for the things they can give (outplacement service, for example).

Ask managers and colleagues if they know of openings in their other hotels, or other hotels in Hawaii, or with other businesses that need your skills. If they know people, ask for introductions.

If you are asked to sign a non-compete statement, in my opinion go ahead and sign it. I doubt anything will come of it, even if you go to a competing hotel. But, I'm not a lawyer.

If you have money in a 401k, look at rolling it over.

If you are lucky enough to not get bad news on that day, make yourself both helpful and a bit scarce... a lot of others are having a bad day.
posted by Houstonian at 5:06 PM on December 24, 2008

Link to,,20245390_2,00.html -- good information about health insurance, and a "day one", "week one", etc timeline.
posted by devbrain at 5:40 PM on December 24, 2008

I've been thru 3 layoffs, including both the staying and going side. Either outcome has its pluses and minuses; if you stay, you're doing more work in a depressing environment, and if you go..we'll, that's more obviously bad. I'd recommend dwelling on the positives, that your next situation could be far better than the current one.

The biggest impression I took away from all this was from the people who were miserable before the layoff, slacked off and complained, etc.--and then went full blown snit when they were RIF'd, even (in one case) with with a pretty nice severance package. Leaving may have been the best thing for those people, but not having control over the process made it unbearable for them. So recognize that this situation is mostly outside your control, and instead of dwelling on that frustration, find the things you can control and concentrate on that. Good luck.
posted by sapere aude at 6:36 PM on December 24, 2008

Best answer: They will have everything sorted out for you and ready to go. A couple of things re: some advice people have made:

1) They will give you some kind of severance package, but ask your boss how much vactation he/she thinks you have and make sure you are on the same page as soon as you can.
2) There will be no negotiation. Period.
3) Good idea to get a dump of your work address book. E-mails you thought you would never forget you will likely forget in a couple of weeks.
4) Get on Linked-in and add everyone you know and start to network (especially w/ your work contacts).
5) Use tools like SimplyHired (and the other one dont remember the name right now geez). Put in several searches for your current position, a position above where you currently are and an adventure pick perhaps - a job that you would be interested in but not necessarily 100% qualified for.
6) Update your resume obviously. Key thing here - focus on what you delivered / sales you made. People look for results put it in every job (multiple times if possible). Negotiated and delivered on 30m hotel conference deal, etc.
7) Ask your friends / frenemies what you could do better. A good time to look inward and retool the soft skills (doubt this is an issue for you).
8) File for unemployment asap - note given a severance you will have to wait until severance is done (I believe). Be ready to file before hand.
9) Prepare for a long job hunt especially if you make over 100k. I would advise you go on any interview you can get initially for a few reasons - 1) you are rusty and 2) some jobs you initially dismissed may surprise you.
10) WARNING - CONTROVERSIAL ADVICE PLEASE SEEK 2nd and 3rd OPINIONS - COBRA. Everyone has said how critical it is. Here is the deal. You will be offered some non-COBRA coverage from the company letting you go, lets say 3 months. Before that 3 months is up you will get a COBRA packet. Here is what no one tells you. From the point your insurance expires you have 60 days retro on COBRA.

What do I mean by this? You could not sign up, get injured say 40 days after you were last covered by the company. You can send in your paperwork w/ the payments for the 60 days and still be covered for the injury that you incurred while not having either paperwork or payment into COBRA. I have checked this several times and know it has been true for the two last times I have moved companies. One time I paid for COBRA (700 dollars for a month) the second time I didn't.

I do know what I am talking about for #10 in terms of leaving a company for another (and the gap therein). This should apply, but again get several opinions. The only reason I mention this is that money may be tight. @ 700 - 1200 / month I am sure you would like to avoid spending dollars if you have to. Last note on this - you will have to pay for those 60 days before they are up if you are intending to go on COBRA. This only works if you find a job before the 60 days are up.

I almost regret typing this as I hope I was clear. In any case I know this COBRA comment will get lots of comments. Again please double check on this. I am just a guy with a keyboard at the end of the day afterall.
posted by gnash at 8:28 PM on December 24, 2008

Severance is absolutely negotiable! They will put a letter in front of you and...well, coerce is not the right word but they will make it seem like just a formality and most people will just sign whatever is put in front of them to get out of there. It's just human nature.

Just politely say that you'd like to take it home and review it before signing. Bringing it to a lawyer is a bit overboard. Just read it, think about what you'd like for a day or so, and try to find some third-party data that supports your requests. Then call someone with budget authority, or someone higher up in HR, and ask for it.
posted by txvtchick at 8:10 AM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Prepare to sign up for unemployment the day you're laid off.

Look over anything they want you to sign very closely. There have been instances of employers sneaking-in clauses to severance agreements wherein you agree to not file for unemployment if you accept the severance package. I'm not sure just how legal such clauses would be, but most employees are not in a position to fight such things.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:50 AM on December 25, 2008

Gnash is right about the COBRA -- you've got 2 months before you have to make that decision. I've done that every time I've left a job and had a break before starting up the next.
posted by Maarika at 8:21 PM on December 25, 2008

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