How to determine the last working day for a laid-off employee
August 8, 2008 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I work for a very small company that has to lay off an employee due to budget restraints. I have heard that in firing someone, the day of firing should be the employee's last day in the office. This protects the company from any harmful backlash. Does this rule hold true for layoffs as well?
posted by binocularfight to Human Relations (17 answers total)
It's the same logic, yes, you send the employee home the day of the layoff and pay out the rest of their severance. Free vacation for them, low risk for the employer. It's always seemed a pretty uncaring way to treat a formerly valued employee, but I guess at a big company it's unavoidable.
posted by Nelson at 10:32 AM on August 8, 2008

yes, and it protects the employee, also. And gives them extra time to find a new job.

For instance, if the layed-off employee gets, say 6 weeks severance, you can give them 2 weeks notice of the layoff and send them home immediately. That means that, in effect, they get 8 weeks severance (including health coverage, etc).

Having them leave immediately protects the company - so if for some reason the employee may want to do something harmful. And it protects the employee, because if something goes missing during his lame-duck period, he may be blamed even if it's not his fault.
posted by nightwood at 10:47 AM on August 8, 2008

Though I agree with Nelson it's an awfully callous way to act, and it sends a message to your remaining employees about how the company views them.
posted by hattifattener at 11:34 AM on August 8, 2008

But you can also get harmful backlash if you lay someone off and then immediately kick them out of the office. It's not very compassionate and can create hard feelings.

I've worked at companies where they've had big layoffs (one half to two thirds of the company), and although it was the last day for all that were laid off, none of them rushed anyone out of the door. It came across that management realized being laid off could be emotional and was concerned for the employees. One company even handed out CDs so people could copy any personal files off of their computers.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:38 AM on August 8, 2008

If that's the logic you're using, then yes, it's the same.

Some will argue about the soundness of this policy. I've been at companies where, immediately after the private meeting where the person was fired, they were handed a box with their stuff in it (Security cleaned out thier desk while they were in the meeting) and escorted out of the building.

If you're concerned about backlash, that's the way to encourage some. I say it depends what kind of damage you think they can do, and if they're likely to. If its a small company you probably know the person pretty well. Assuming they were an average person I'd say "Look Bob, I'm really sorry we have to lay you off. As of right now you have no responsibilities at the company. But you do get [the details of the severance package]. You don't have to complete any of the stuff you've been working on. Take what time you need to settle your personal stuff here, say goodbyes, take care of any loose ends you feel necessary, and then go and make the most of these xxx weeks of severnce pay and find another great job. We'll give you the great references you deserve. Good luck, we were really glad to have the opportunity to work with you."

They'll still be gone by the end of the day, but they won't want to burn the place to the ground.
posted by Ookseer at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2008

I think Friday afternoon is the traditional time for giving somebody the news that they are going to be laid off - at least here in the UK. This lets them go home directly from the interview rather than have to face colleagues - and it gives them the weekend to start making plans. In my time working for (mostly large companies) the only people who I have seen instantly removed from the workplace are those who say they are going to work for a competitor or those who have committed some kind of gross misconduct.
posted by rongorongo at 11:58 AM on August 8, 2008

Yes, as someone who has fired people, and has witnessed layoffs over the years, it is best to terminate the employee and get the the hell out of there.


It saves embarrassment, recrimination, poisoning the overall well, and reduces drama.
posted by Ponderance at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2008

I've been in both situations. Laid off/fired and had to leave immediately, and laid off but stayed at the company (in one case, for a few weeks) to finish projects. The immediate option is shocking and painful but at least it's a complete break. The problem with the drawn out option, especially if it's a large group of people that were laid off but hanging around, is that there's a serious drop in morale that affects everyone else there (a significant number of the non-layoffees found new jobs on their own because they saw the writing on the wall for the company).
posted by matildaben at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2008

If you tell someone that you're laying them off at the end of the week (...and if it's not 4:15pm on a Friday, as it is when I'm writing this), I wouldn't expect them to work that hard for the rest of the week. Depending on their personalities, they might even try to sabotage things. Not necessarily a violent rampage, but introducing bugs in the code? E-mailing that ego-centric but high-value customer and telling them what they really think of them?

I still remember, though, when I was a little kid and my dad worked at a place that was big on security. (I was maybe 5 at the time, and I remember having to go through security whenever I went with him.) Basically as soon as they told him that he'd been layed off, they took his badge and shredded it, documented that it was shredded, gave him a box, and then security escorted him out once he was done packing his things. I remember feeling really bad that they were treating my dad that way.

So maybe somewhere in between, "Get out of the building right this second" and "Stay and keep working for another two weeks," there's a good middle ground.

Guy Kawasaki had an article in this week's Entrepreneur magazine on the subject, actually. He recommends letting them stay the day/week, but no longer, and then goes on to suggest just doing it on a Friday.
posted by fogster at 1:32 PM on August 8, 2008

As noted above, to be absolutely positively sure the employee does not sabotage things after hearing of their layoff, they have to leave immediately.

But think also of the morale of those left behind. If I see someone being escorted out, I know that:

A) that's going to be my embarrassing and undignified fate too if/when I'm laid off;

B) someone (me?) is going to have to do a lot of wheel-reinventing because that employee has no doubt left with a lot of knowledge and left a lot of loose ends; and

C) I work for a company whose values are in conflict with my own. This may not have been evident before, but is surely clear when I see someone not even allowed to say goodbye to their coworkers.

I've been around both situations, and been laid off with notice and without. I felt a lot more comfortable being given notice, because I could finish up some things and organize other things so I could leave knowing I had done my best by my clients and coworkers. Plus I had time to erase all the personal crap that had accumulated on my work PC.

Is there any way you can get a sense for how this employee will react? Do they even have access to sensitive info (admin passwords, etc.)? Are they key to some workflow that will have to be transferred over to someone else? Someone will have to do whatever it is that the soon-to-be laid-off employee does now. How will that person be trained?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:05 PM on August 8, 2008

mr. nax and I have been through the "security cleaned out your desk while you were being fired" routine. In 10 years, we have never forgiven them, and bad mouth the company to anyone who asks. It is a really really really shitty thing to do to someone, severance pay or no. If you have a good relationship with this employee, then at least give them to the end of the day to put their own affairs in order, for pity's sake. If you have a reasonable expectation that they will trash the place, I guess you have to be shits. But then if you have a reasonable expectation that they will trash the place you're probably already shits.
posted by nax at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

At my last job, they cut 66% of my department due to budget constraints (six months before they sold that branch of the company). Two-thirds of those laid off were escorted out immediately; I was basically told "your last day will be in 30 days, please document what you're doing and tie up projects".

I had everything documented and handed over to other guys in about a week and a half, and spent the other two and a half weeks jobhunting and sending out resumes on "company time" with my boss' explicit approval.

It worked out well; I was only jobless for two days (the weekend).
posted by mrbill at 2:11 PM on August 8, 2008

If the employee is given the option to stay and work for a few additional weeks, it's a good precaution to back up any electronic files that work on their hard-drive and on your office's server. I worked with a lady once, who was laid off from her previous job due to budget cuts. She confided to me that she was so angry that she spent her last two weeks methodically deleting important documents from the server and her computer.
posted by pluckysparrow at 2:43 PM on August 8, 2008

follow-up from someone who would prefer to remain anonymous.
I was just laid off by a very small company. I was cut a final check and told to clear out immediately. I wasn't given any of the paperwork my state requires, and I now have to wait until the end of this month to attend a hearing about my unemployment claim with no benefits in the meantime. So along with your tactics, PLEASE make sure you have your HR shit in order.

Because the company was so small, in retrospect it was obvious that my coworkers who weren't getting laid off had known for a long time this was going down. As much as I know why they didn't say anything, several weeks later that's the only thing I'm pissed off about...that after all the hard work I'd done for them and all the favorable employee reviews, they were still worried I would go postal. I wish they would have done what nightwood suggested, that strikes me as a tactic that would have afforded me some dignity and (at least I don't think) would have cost any extra.

As a result of this...if you think there's any chance you might want the laid off employee back for temp or contract work, err on the side of a more civil approach. Before I got laid off, I would have taken a bullet for those people and I'm generally a pretty cynical workerbee. Now? No way.
posted by jessamyn at 8:17 PM on August 8, 2008

I've done extensive work in corporate IT. It's absolutely standard practice to do this, with the added fillip that while you're in the meeting, somebody is locking down your network accounts and anything else you may have had access to is having passwords changed or otherwise protected. This can be especially fun if you're someone with access to routers or remote servers on the other side of the world.

It's really ironic that they do this to employees, but contractors who have much less of a relationship with the company will be given an end date and expected to work up to that day all the time.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 AM on August 9, 2008

I always thought standard practice was to cancel their access card, change their computer password and let them figure it out on their own.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2008

A lot of the "give them notice, let them stay" responses here appear to come from a place of potentially hurt personal feelings- essentially, that it's a mean thing to do to someone.

That may be what's best for you, but it's completely at odds, in almost all cases, with what's best for the company. It may be nice to give you some time to "get your affairs in order", but beyond cleaning out your desk, what does that entail, exactly? Saying tearful goodbyes, on company time, taking up the time of other people who should be working? Calling clients on your company phone to tell them they got laid off? And why pay someone any longer than necessary, knowing that you're not getting 100% effort back in return? And I'm not even getting into sabotage.

You may think that's cold, but from a practical standpoint, it's the best way to handle it.

The exception here, IMO, is when an entire group is being laid off, since there's no surprise about who's going and who's not, and odds are that there will be less need for someone else to "pick up the slack", so you expect the group to finish up its business.
posted by mkultra at 10:27 AM on August 22, 2008

« Older Would CT scan show gallstones?   |   Too many spiders! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.