A few years back, while at my first post-college job, I got into a debate with the owner of the company over which is worse: getting fired or getting laid off.
My claim was the obvious one: getting fired is much worse. Getting fired means you were considered unemployable, an obvious detriment to the company. You sucked so hard that your company decided to replace you. On the other hand, an employee could get laid off due to circumstance, poor timing, dumb luck, crap economy, what have you. Seemed obvious to me.
My boss countered by claiming that being laid off was worse because the employee was forgettable. Easily replaceable. This person had the chance to stand out, but rather was considered so expendable that, when the layoffs were planned, said employee wasn’t valuable enough to save. No one saw enough potential to find him or her a new position. The laid off blend in; say what you want about the fired ones, at least they have spunk.
I was vocally opposed to this ass-backwards theory, but…as much as I didn’t want to admit it at the time, a small part of it made sense to me. Not so much that I considered changing my original stance, but I could understand the core sentiment. Principally, I felt the same: if you are a rock star, you won’t ever get laid off. Companies large and small hold on to their most valuable employees no matter what.
Well, I will have plenty of time now to ponder this debate, because last Thursday I was laid off. Sad but true, friends.
I’ll spare you my (totally valid) explanation that this had nothing to do with job performance, that they cut jobs based on roles rather than performance — foolish as that may seem from the outside — but unless you’ve experienced massive corporate cuts, my guess is you will have trouble fully believing that to be the case. If he was so valuable, they would have found a place for him. That’s how it works. Hey, I don’t blame you. That makes total sense from the periphery. Up until last week, I would have agreed with you.
And while I still believe my old boss was in the wrong, I have to admit I’ve been spending much of my free time hoping against hope there are more of me in the world than her.
We shall see.
(Please, no notes of sympathy in the comments. I received a severance and have a boatload of friends willing to aid in my job search. Not to mention: no one ha died, no one is dying. Keepin’ it in perspective.)