How to get fired?
June 21, 2008 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Can I request to be laid off?

I work for a large financial firm in New York that has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn. Like all companies in our industry, we are laying people off in an attempt to cut costs. I have been contemplating leaving my job (and the industry) to go back to school in an entirely different field. One thing that has prevented me from doing this is the loss of salary and health benefits that I'd be faced with until I start my grad program, as well as financial concerns about the future. My company is offering laid off workers in a similar position as mine 4 months severance pay plus an extension of health care for 6 months. If I quit I will receive none of this. Is there some way of signaling to my employer that I would "like" to be laid off, besides not performing well (which would probably get me selected in the next round as a "poor performer")? I'm fairly new to the corporate world so I am not sure whether this is inappropriate - it definitely seems weird to "request" being laid off. Have any mefites been faced with a similar situation? How should I go about this - or is this a stupid idea and I should either quit or do my job and shut up?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some companies do look for volunteers to be laid off. This is usually known and or publicize during layoffs. If you have an ombudsman you could make an anonymous inquiry, if not you should be able to go to HR, discreetly, and ask about it. FWIW HR people consider themselves professionals, and your conversations with them should be considered private matters.
posted by Gungho at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2008

A friend of mine did exactly this with a large company (as he joked "they would never pay me this much to leave again."). I get the impression you need to be on good terms with your boss, and must raise the matter delicately.
posted by adamrice at 3:07 PM on June 21, 2008

I think giving this a positive spin in a personal and private conversation with your direct supervisor might be able to get you the desired result. consider approaching him/her with something akin to "I have been contemplating furthering my education in order to grow and this might be an opportune moment to consider that step." seek advise, don't go in with your mind made up. keep the door open to coming back. be clear that you can and want to do more but that you're not unhappy with them. you never know if you don't meet twice in life...

this might not work if you don't have that kind of relationship with your supervisor that would enable you to converse in confidence but only you know whether that's the case. I wouldn't talk to someone who has a track record of badmouthing people who have left on their own as 'traitors' and such.
posted by krautland at 3:07 PM on June 21, 2008

A friend of mine did exactly this with a large company (as he joked "they would never pay me this much to leave again."). I get the impression you need to be on good terms with your boss, and must raise the matter delicately.

adamrice is correct. First, you need to find out, if at all possible, whether there will be a layoff soon. They probably won't say for sure, but if it seems likely, and you are very comfortable having discreet conversations with your immediate superior, you should say something like, "Well, I hope you'll let me know if you ever need volunteers, or if you have to make up a list." You're not saying anything that should get you fired -- you're not saying much directly, just that you want to know if that situation should arise. You can backtrack if called on this later!
posted by theredpen at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest that there's a small, but non-zero chance that if you offer to be laid off to the wrong person, they might just fire you with little or no compensation (after all, you want to leave - why pay you?). Consider your relationship with your manager and the professionalism of the HR group (if it is professional at all) before trying this. I do think if you have worked well with your manager and he/she indicates there will be layoffs, it might work.
posted by saeculorum at 5:55 PM on June 21, 2008

I did this once, at a job I hated but with a boss I liked. The company had announced several upcoming waves of layoffs and it was pretty clear my project was going to be axed eventually, so I just told my boss if he needed any volunteers, I'd be willing to take the nice juicy severance package. I was on very good terms with him, though, so I wasn't worried about any nasty consequences.

He appreciated my offer greatly, by the way. A good boss always agonizes over layoffs - there is rarely enough obvious dead wood to fill the cut quota, and deciding which good people to scuttle is painful. Knowing that someone will go happily puts their conscience at ease.

Assuming you're on good terms with your boss and you trust them, go talk to them and tell them what you said here. If your department is slated for cuts, you will be doing your boss and yourself a favor.
posted by Quietgal at 6:49 PM on June 21, 2008

One of my friends, who was on great terms with his boss in a company that was planning on laying off 25% of its workforce, asked to be laid off, but his request was denied. He did it tactfully, and no harm was done. He quit a few months afterwards, but while he remained, that conversation with his boss didn't hurt their relationship. If you don't think your boss is the retaliatory type, it might not hurt to ask.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:00 PM on June 21, 2008

I volunteered to be laid off, presenting it as a selfless act "Ideally, I'd like to continue working here, but I'm in a position where being laid off will harm me less than my coworkers". I did not mention that my music career had recently shown evidence that I could make a living off it.

They appreciated my volunteering so much I was able to stay on health benefits until the company went under. Worked out perfectly.
posted by yorick at 6:17 AM on June 22, 2008

I told my boss that he was free to lay me off first and he was quite grateful that he could delay picking who got the axe for at least a little while.
posted by popechunk at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2008

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