Zooming Out
June 30, 2020 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Fired over zoom. There’s no good way to be fired, but this new way sucks.
posted by w0mbat (83 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
One day, a box arrives from Purolator with instructions to "pack your laptop, phone, and Amex carefully, so they're not damaged in transit." With that, no handshake, and no well wishes, you're done.

lol fuck you Company, come to my house ring my doorbell and pick up my phone and laptop yourself. I don't work for you anymore.
posted by windbox at 7:10 AM on June 30 [58 favorites]


I've been let go from two jobs. Once fired, once "well, we needed to cut staff and you were the first one to call out, so bye" - There's really no good way to be laid off or fired. TBH I'd probably prefer to get the cut over Zoom where I don't have to be in a room with the people and have to shuffle out of the building past my former cow-orkers.
posted by jzb at 7:13 AM on June 30 [22 favorites]


I dunno I'd prefer a ZOOM firing or hell even via a phone call to having no warning of being fired and 10 minutes to clear out your desk before being led out by security in front of everyone (who are equally confused but also keeping their heads down).
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:19 AM on June 30 [12 favorites]


What's the alternative? No call at all, just an email?

I think it would be worse to get fired via a phone call, but maybe that's my age.

Both my parter and I have survived a round of layoffs with our employers, and it's not a good feeling for anyone.
posted by Braeburn at 7:22 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I had a job where I worked remotely and the office was an hour from my house. It wasn’t going great, and they called and asked me to come to the office. I responded that if you’re going to fire me, just please do it now over the phone and save me the drive. They assured me no, no, we just need to talk to you. I drove to the office. They fired me. I drove two hours just to get fired. So yeah, it’s not for everyone in every situation, but it has its time and place.
posted by gnutron at 7:27 AM on June 30 [84 favorites]


I dunno I'd prefer a ZOOM firing or hell even via a phone call 

In the article, 92 people were mass-fired in a 50 seconds of zoom. A half second per person, no one mentioned by name, and 10 minutes before the company-issued laptop shuts itself off permanently. I'd strongly prefer to be fired as an individual however the message is sent.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:28 AM on June 30 [25 favorites]


"If you're going to get fired via Zoom, the least they can do is look at your face while they do it."

The video muting is not so they don't HR doesn't have to see you, is so that you're spared being seen by everyone else.
posted by mhoye at 7:30 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


George: Zoom, Jerry! They fired me over Zoom!

Kramer: Zoom's bad.

Jerry: I can never figure out how the mute works in Zoom.

Elaine: Snapple?
posted by bondcliff at 7:42 AM on June 30 [16 favorites]


I think this was the point in that Up in the Air movie where George Clooney flies around to fire people in person and then somebody suggests using video chat instead and people were losing it online and it was kind of a massive failure so Clooney got to keep flying around.
posted by JanetLand at 7:44 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


In the article, 92 people were mass-fired in a 50 seconds of zoom.

Fair, there's a difference beteen being fired in an individual call wirh HR, and en masse.
posted by Braeburn at 7:45 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Someone made a choice about who stays and who goes. Someone placed value on attributes, skills, experience, personality, seniority — someone placed a value on you. And decided you weren't valuable enough.

In my experience (5 times, I think?), there's rarely this much thought put in to who stays and goes. Especially at large places. Spreadsheet firings are much more common: who makes the most, and who is in a protected class that makes them likely to sue?
posted by cowcowgrasstree at 7:49 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]


I was laid off with severance, and they STILL called me down to HR and had security walk me to my car and badge my car out of the lot. Oh well! 13 years gone in a single IM: "Can you come down to HR for a moment, please?"
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:51 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


I’ve had to fire a number of employees over Zoom in the last two months (myself and a HR person on with each person individually for 30 mins - though I’d drop at some point to allow the person to ask confidential questions on medical benefits etc and get their individual severance package communicated to them). It sucks - even more so then firing someone in person. We had a company direction it needed to be done over Zoom for (insert vague reasons) but we made it absolutely clear that the person didn’t need to join video - and if they did - I made it clear to them upfront it was going to be a difficult call and if they didn’t want to be on video or needed to move to a private space they could take a few minutes to do so. Interestingly only about a third either didn’t join video or dropped when given time to do so. Seemed like more people preferred to be on video.

The worst bits for me (as the person delivering the news - clearly worse for the person getting the news) were making sure to look directly at the camera when talking to the person - which I really felt was the absolute minimum I could do to respect the person being fired - but then as a result not really being able to see their face as I talked given slight offset of the screen and camera - which meant I was consciously flicking my eyes up and down to try and gauge the person’s reactions - that made it feel even more impersonal. That and, although we tried to give people as much forewarning about what the call was about - some people didn’t get the messages. One person joined with their Zoom virtual background set to a whacky comedy video and clearly didn’t know what the call was going to be. As soon as I said it was going to be a difficult conversation they went into full panic mode and started trying to stop their background, ended up sharing their desktop by mistake for a minutes and generally panicked. Had to tell them to just turn their camera off and give them a few minutes to take a breath and get a glass of water before we could start.

But oh my god the stories I’ve heard around calls dropping multiple times sometimes before the “you’re fired” message had been given, mass zoom firings (50 second mass Zoom firings - what the fuck), people not realizing what the call was and taking them while their kids were playing in the background and bursting into tears in front of their family etc. Just Ugh.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:58 AM on June 30 [42 favorites]


I was fired over the phone while I was on vacation once. The company had to make an investor call by 12, so spent the morning trying to find all of us from the office they were closing. Got severance, but didn't appreciate the threats of legal action when the phone I'd handed back to them went missing from their office. Also didn't appreciate the rounds of frantic tech calls from folks who were still with the company: hey, fire your SME on the $500M project you're building midway through construction, don't expect free tech support.

Canopy Growth, like all of the Canadian commercial pot growers, was always doomed. I've met their founder, and hope never to do so again.
posted by scruss at 8:10 AM on June 30 [8 favorites]


Back in the early 80’s at Apple, got to work, walked into the building. There in the lobby was the president’s secretary with a clipboard. Name? Go to such and such conference room at 10:00. Go into building and it’s really weird. A few crying. People in small groups here and there. Did you hear? So and so got fired? No! I’m sure they’re going to fire me. I asked them if they were to go to a conference room. Yes... Find out if anyone else is going there. Why? They don’t fire people in groups. I was right then. Now? Yes, folks, times have changed.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:23 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


A few years ago, I was a manager at another company that was remote-first, and had a bad hire. The process that we had in place had a few holes and this caused us to miss a few flags that were very apparent once we had hired this person. Within a month, we realized that we shouldn't have hired this person and needed to let them go. HR walked me through the process which was basically have my regular weekly 1:1 with them, but then invite HR into it. I can communicate the short, direct message that today would be their last day at the company, then I could leave while HR walked them through logistics for wrapping up their employment. Short, direct, to the point. In the background, the person's access privileges would be removed while they were talking.

It felt like I just loaded a gun, handed it to HR and walked away.

I've fired people in person before, and had to let other people go remotely since. I've been laid off and been the person telling the team that layoffs were happening (and at least, luckily at the time, my teams were safe) and it all sucks, but that first remote firing with "I invited (HR PERSON) to this call because today will be your last day at Acme, Inc." was distinctly awful.
posted by bl1nk at 8:27 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Spreadsheet firings are much more common: who makes the most, and who is in a protected class that makes them likely to sue?

Hopefully clarifying rather than contradicting this statement, the latter consideration has less to do with being likely to sue, per se, than with being likely to have cause to sue: spreadsheet firing will, in almost all businesses, have a disproportionate effect on those already subject to marginalisation and discrimination.
posted by howfar at 8:29 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


In around 1997, I worked at an ISP in the 24/7 helpdesk center. Brand new building, pretty heavy security systems on the entrances (because people get PISSED when their dial-up doesn't work, but also because there were people there around the clock in a pretty new office park with nobody else around at night). I worked second shift 3-midnight, still the best work schedule I've ever had, and we were a pretty small crew, but day shift was clearly way bloated.

One of my roommates worked graveyard, so he was there the morning the 7am shift showed up and a bunch of badges didn't work because IT had been told to cut off their access as of (DATE) so they set the security system to expire access on (DATE), which it did right at midnight. A couple of people who walked in with someone with a working badge got to their desks and couldn't log in.

Daytime managers didn't show up until 8 or later. They'd been planning a meeting at 10am to handle all this, you know the kind: everyone who's staying gets invited to the meeting, everyone left behind will be walked out before the meeting concludes. The entire morning was complete chaos; people figured out what was going on and were freaking out. My roommate stayed and worked until noon for both the gossip and the overtime.

So THAT's the reason I momentarily panic every time my badge doesn't work or I can't log in to my work computer or email. And then I also panic every time I have a 1:1, or a suspicious unexpected meeting of any kind, or it seems like most of my coworkers are invited to a meeting I'm not, or I get an IM asking if I "have a minute" from anyone who might likely fire me. I have found out that a lot of other people are also like this, which makes me feel better.

At least with my personal phone, I just assume I have died if it doesn't register my touch on the screen.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 AM on June 30 [40 favorites]


Now explain to me why companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:51 AM on June 30 [103 favorites]


Heh, this brings back memories! My first grown-up job was with Arthur Andersen ... in 1999. Enron happened in 2001, and by March/April 2002, Andersen was jettisoning just about everyone, but initially thought they could retain a skeleton crew and push through it all (I think the plan at the time was to retain about 20% of our group, though my memory is fuzzy). For my ~300-person training division, they gathered us all into a big town hall with our HR person, who told us to make our arrangements, go home, and check our voice mail. They left each of us a recorded voice mail that let us know whether we were one of the laid-off ones or one of the retained ones.

According to the HR guy, this was the humane way of doing things because we could find out in private, with family or friends, or whatever. Two of my coworkers and I had a party which involved large quantities of alcohol and then made our calls, one-by-one, and it was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Two of us were laid off and one was kept (though by the end of the following week, everyone who had been kept was also laid off).

To say I did not handle it well is an epic understatement that I don't really want to go into, but on the other hand, I'm not sure what would have been better. The only other time I've been laid off (by a company that got bought the day I started, and shortly thereafter did a last-in, first-out thing ... d'oh), it was in person, and all I really remember of that one was having to comfort my manager when she started crying about having to lay me off ... so yeah. At least the voice mail didn't ask any emotional labor of me, I guess?

Being laid off sucks no matter how it's done. Zoom sounds like a crappy way to go, but then again, I don't think there really is a non-crappy way.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:04 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.

Anyone who has been persuaded that they should believe companies deserve anything whatsoever is in the unfortunate position of having trusted badly. You give 2 weeks notice if you judge it will be more of a risk not to than it'd be worth. Usually that is the judgment most people find in alignment with their preferences. But you don't do it because your employer is an entity with moral standing of any kind whatsoever. You do it because your employer has power over you. I understand some people were lied to in this regard, and it must be really hard to go through life expecting your natural enemy to be your friend.
posted by PMdixon at 9:06 AM on June 30 [33 favorites]


I don't think there really is a non-crappy way.

For underperforming / bad fit firings my company does it in person and offers a month at full salary to tie off loose ends and look for a new job on company time. But that's still more "least bad" rather than "non-crappy".
posted by jedicus at 9:15 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Now explain to me why companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.

You give two weeks because someday the coworkers you just royally fucked (or do not so fuck) over might be on the hiring committee for a job you want some day. Perhaps they'll remember you had a good reason to just peace out, or perhaps things were running smoothly and they told you to go with God, but maybe they'll remember the hell they went through to clean up your mess.
posted by sideshow at 9:26 AM on June 30 [16 favorites]


but maybe they'll remember the hell they went through to clean up your mess

You can still be a professional and make sure you document all of your work-in-progress, leave decent how-to instructions for everyone, and drop your email to key coworkers (not management) as a "break in case of fire" contingency.

If you do all that and someone on a hiring committee someday far away in Hypotheticalville resents you for that, you're best off without them.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:45 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]


I know that article writers need to always pretend that something happening is brand new and novel, but getting remotely terminated from a job is probably as old as the concept of the "job" itself. Even Zoom (or WebEx, or BlueJeans, or GoTo Meeting, or..etc) isn't that novel, just apparently you all haven't been working from home so you haven't heard of it apparently.

Here's how me and my close friends/family have gotten laid off.

I was told "we couldn't do it without it you!" by my General Manager at a Mervyn's when there was a termination letter in my mailbox at home at that very moment that included the signature of that very same manager.

My dad's (and everyone else's showing up to the building) keycard wouldn't work to let them in, eventually a manager was contacted and apparently the layoff lockout happened 24 hours early, and everyone should go to such-and-such hotel ballroom to hear next steps.

I didn't get laid off, but I got a call from my boss when on vacation to tell me that in 5 mins just about all my coworkers were getting laid off.

I started getting scheduled for zero days as a waiter for weeks on end, I was never actually told I was laid off.

My now ex-wife scheduled a Hawaiian vacation with her sister, and the second she was over the Pacific, her job left a VM saying she was terminated since that was the only time she was guaranteed to not answer.

My old boss, then at a different job, was brushing his teeth when he wife yelled out "I think you are being laid off" because Cisco shutting down Flip had leaked to MSNBC before the employees knew. He went to the office only to get laid off via company-wide teleconference.

Lots of people have found out because their keycards didn't work on the building door.

One person because they saw the FBI/IRS was carting away computers/documents as they pulled into the parking lot.

Lots of "TV getting rolled out during an all hands, and some big shot says everyone is let go".

Etc etc.

Edit: Hell, the one time I was laid off in person it was kinda miserable, but not in the way you'd think.

I got laid off from an ad agency in 2003, which I knew was coming since we had zero work and I was playing CounterStrike for 8 hours a day instead of building customer's websites. The owner told me I was done, I thought "hell yeah, surfing/drinking all day!", and the owner broke down and started crying. I was 22 with just about 0 expenses, so getting unemployment was like a vacation. He was real broken up about it, and I ended up consoling him about it lol.
posted by sideshow at 9:47 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


Now explain to me why companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.

You give two weeks because someday the coworkers you just royally fucked (or do not so fuck) over might be on the hiring committee for a job you want some day. Perhaps they'll remember you had a good reason to just peace out, or perhaps things were running smoothly and they told you to go with God, but maybe they'll remember the hell they went through to clean up your mess.


Part that, also when your employer fires you they still have they pay you those 2 weeks, I assume (don't know in USA if its like that). I see the 2 weeks notice as the reciprocal of that.

The 2 weeks is about transition. If they fire you on the spot, knowledge transition is on them. If you quit, its fair to give your employer a bit of time to organize some knowledge transfer/transition depending on your job and how things are organized two weeks can barely be enough to do it.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 9:50 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I've worked for too many dot coms, so I've been through too many layoffs as a result of the whole boom and bust investment cycle. At one they apparently gave the internal IT people the list of accounts to deactivate a couple weeks before the actual date, so a bunch of us had our accounts mysteriously not work for about four hours one day, but they were all back by lunchtime. This was the third big round of layoffs at the company in about eight months, and I don't think any of us were particularly surprised. But I know my boss in particular was really uncomfortable with my "so does this mean I've been fired?"

My most recent job loss was super awkward. I had a vacation planned (fifth anniversary trip to Paris) and a couple upper level people either left or were pushed out the week before. A couple days before I was set to leave my manager was given the task of asking me if I could call in for something the next week. "No, I am not calling into something from my vacation in Paris. I am upset on your behalf that anyone thought it was appropriate to make you ask me that." After our return flight landed at Dulles I checked my email and saw a message from a colleague on a listserv we were both on. He was newly out of a job, and also wrote "A co-worker is probably in the same boat (but I don't think he even knows yet since he is on vacation without any devices)." We'd all been set up to work from home over the previous couple months, and when I got home my VPN endpoint and desk phone both had blinking LEDs indicating a lost connection. Sure enough when I fired up my work computer the next morning I couldn't check my email and had to text my manager. "Anything I should know?" "Oh, [HR person] scheduled a call for 10." "Well, I can't log in, so I can't see the meeting invite."

The only place I've worked that did staff cuts well was AOL. They pulled however many peers into a conference room for the basic "your positions have been eliminated" talk, then broke that out into even smaller groups based on your seniority and severance. After that they assigned each now-former employee to a different manager for the day, and that manager "supervised" as you cleaned out your desk. They offered blank media so you could copy off any personal files from your work computer. The new-to-you manager escorted you out, which was much more dignified than having security people do it. Personally I didn't need the blank media because I knew the jig was up the day before, when my manager (not a morning person) sent me an email asking me to meet him in his office first thing the next day, and then skated out before I could ask him any questions about it. I'd taken my laptop home and copied all my personal stuff that night. I told my girlfriend (now wife) "pretty sure I'm losing my job tomorrow. Don't be surprised when I call to say we should meet for lunch." It was a lovely lunch. I had another job offer (from people I'd worked with before) before we even got our drinks.
posted by fedward at 9:54 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


Part that, also when your employer fires you they still have they pay you those 2 weeks, I assume (don't know in USA if its like that). I see the 2 weeks notice as the reciprocal of that.

I almost every case, in the USA neither the employee nor the employer is obligated is keep the employment arraignment in place one second longer then either side wants to. In fact, you could give your two weeks notice and get fired that same minute, although that is extra extra shitty.

However, in jobs with company secrets, its pretty common to give two (or whatever) weeks notice and then have the company immediately walk you out while paying you that extra time. At my place, if someone like a product designer quits, they don't even get to go back to their desk. They want to start the clock on getting that information in their head stale as soon as possible.
posted by sideshow at 9:56 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


It sounds like people are using "fired" and "laid off" interchangeably in this thread. I was fired in September for apparently not being good enough, and then laid off from my new job in May because the industry was hit extremely hard.

The firing made me feel like a worthless piece of shit who would probably never work again because no employer would ever want me. The layoff? Whatever, I was new and they made a call.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:02 AM on June 30 [18 favorites]


Now explain to me why companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.

In my experience almost everyone who leaves my (large professional services) company wants to give 2 weeks because they have clients or coworkers they want to to take care of. But it is weird - I had someone try and give me six months notice last year so they could see a major project out - and I honestly had to talk them around to not-formalizing that until much closer to the time because I knew bonuses were being paid during that period and they could get less if some spreadsheet somewhere said “resigning” way down at column CF.

The thing I do find weird is the number of people who resign because they are burnt out and need a change of pace - and if I ask them if they are taking any time off between jobs it’s almost always no - leave two Fridays from now and start the new job the Monday after....and this is an environment where people get paid out PTO and typically will have a few weeks pay owing to them - so although everyone’s economic circumstances are very different - most of them can afford to at least take a week between jobs - hell they could even just bake their PTO into their notice period and retain full benefits etc and just chill until new job starts. Not sure if it’s just the US but there is a really unhealthy “can’t have any gap on my resume even a week“ / “ can’t be unemployed for even a day” culture going on.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:11 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Part that, also when your employer fires you they still have they pay you those 2 weeks, I assume (don't know in USA if its like that)

The typical case in the USA is that, upon being fired, your employer owes you for any unpaid vacation/PTO time that you have accrued* and nothing else. Anyone want to take a guess who benefits from this wonderful new "unlimited vacation time" policy that's going around?

Any pay above and beyond that is typically under a severance agreement. You'll get extra weeks of pay if you legally agree to give away certain abilities like not recruiting employees that stay behind, not calling the company's customers for a certain number of years, keeping your disparging comments off Yelp and Glassdoor, etc etc etc.

*accrued, meaning your vacation time isn't all awarded to you on Jan 1. You build up 1/52 of your vacation time for every week you work. A manager that lets you take a week off in January is letting you go negative on your hours and guess how it gets paid back?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:17 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Yeah I agree, I don't view getting fired the same as getting laid off. In my industry, firings rarely happen, and they are usually due to things like lying on timecards, extreme negligence that led to injuries or liabilities. Layoffs happen because the dept had major budget cuts, or the company wants to downsize, etc.
posted by extramundane at 10:18 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I got cut once in the second round of layoffs. They told everyone else to come in an hour or so later than usual. Everyone on the list who showed up on time got pulled off into The Conversation To Discuss Your Benefits And Next Steps.

Even in that window, some of us were hauling our stuff out as other people (on the chopping list) were on their way in. It sucked.
posted by jquinby at 10:19 AM on June 30


Makes me more glad than ever that I'm self-employed.
posted by signal at 10:23 AM on June 30


Even in that window, some of us were hauling our stuff out as other people (on the chopping list) were on their way in. It sucked.

Let me tell you about the publicly traded company I worked for that accidentally put out the press release a day early. The PR firm screwed it up, apparently.

We heard about being laid off on the radio, as we were driving into work. That was a fun time.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:25 AM on June 30 [9 favorites]


Eventually the 200 people fired will realize that the company they built would probably work better and be wildly more profitable for them if they got rid of all the executives instead.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:10 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I think the thing on Zoom is the "face to face" bomb drop issue.

On a related note: last week someone I know applied for a job at the office she was temping at. This job wasn't 100% promised to her, but at the time it seemed highly likely to happen. Her boss definitely wanted to hire her for it. However, the boss's supervisor decided she didn't like her and nixed it. Both of them called her over Zoom to share the rejection, and then the boss's supervisor nitpicked how badly she did in the interview (she was nervous and it showed) until the girl ended up crying and having to shut off her camera. "Why couldn't they have just told me this on the phone?" she said.

If you're giving someone bad news, maybe at least try to do it in a way where maybe you don't find out if they start crying?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:15 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


There has to be a better, more mindful way to let people go. I'm not sure what it is, but what I read wasn't it. That was needlessly cruel. I've found that I don't take a lay-off personally. I know my worth, that I've done a good job, and that some things are beyond my ability to prevent.

I've been fired once. It was unfair (and a whole shibboleth regarding Obama's election and racist hedge fund managers). That one I took personally, but shouldn't've.

I've been laid off twice, once in person some years ago by the company owner's son-in-law, who was the COO. He tried to hug me immediately after telling me. HA! No thanks. It was a small, family-run place, so I wasn't immediately marched out. The company imploded due to bad management within the year.

The second time was this past March over the phone on a Tuesday. My now-former boss cried, told me that her boss ordered her to lay me off the day before, and he'd wanted the virtual frog march out that day. We Skyped HR in London, and they agreed that I should finish out the week.

What made the actual lay-off call take longer than it had to was that she needed to be reassured that she wasn't a bad person for not defying him. Yet she hasn't reached out to find out how I am since that last day. I got severance, unlike at the previous job.

Her boss, ironically, was fired without severance the week after. He got the virtual frog march out, and apparently, he hadn't seen it coming. I'm sure he stormed a bit, but then called a few pals at his country club and had a new job inside of a fortnight.
posted by droplet at 11:19 AM on June 30 [2 favorites]


"Someone made a choice about who stays and who goes. Someone placed value on attributes, skills, experience, personality, seniority — someone placed a value on you. And decided you weren't valuable enough."

I was laid off face-to-face, given severance, paid for my vacation, even training to network for new jobs, and it still felt like the worst moment of my life for the reason in the above quote. In my case, it was a 15% cut so that the nonprofit could survive. Now, ten years later, they just cut 80% of their workforce to try and survive COVID-19, and that likely won't be enough. I don't think there's a good way to do this, especially right now.
posted by gladly at 11:25 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


The typical case in the USA is that, upon being fired, your employer owes you for any unpaid vacation/PTO time that you have accrued* and nothing else.

Not even close.
posted by meowzilla at 11:40 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


"i don't recall saying 'good luck.'"
posted by entropicamericana at 11:43 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Being called back into the office for no reason next week has me planning to use a week of PTO and hopefully have a new job by then. I'm terrified, but it's just one final straw in a string of this business is run by people who actively dislike us/me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:49 AM on June 30 [5 favorites]


bl1nk: "It felt like I just loaded a gun, handed it to HR and walked away."

There's a reason it's called "firing."
posted by chavenet at 11:51 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Wednesday. 9 a.m.

You receive an 11am meeting invite. It's titled 'Team Update'. This kind of meeting is never good.


Please someone tell my company this. I have a few of these every year. So far they're just "state of the company" things or routine things that someone forgot about until the last minute.
posted by meowzilla at 12:05 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Alex Goran: [in Miami, referring to Natalie's boyfriend] He broke up with you over text message?

Ryan Bingham: That's kind of like firing someone over the Internet.


-Up in the Air (2009)
posted by doctornemo at 12:10 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


upon being fired, your employer owes you for any unpaid vacation/PTO time that you have accrued* and nothing else
That's only the case in 8 states. (and a few more states that are "Yes, unless the company says no", which translates to me as "Haha, nope") Most of the country, it all evaporates. (Sure was a kick in the teeth when I watched 30 days evaporate that way recently. I knew it was coming, but I'd also heard from previous coworkers that they would sometimes pay it out anyhow so I guess the unofficial policy only held until it was time for mass cuts)
posted by CrystalDave at 12:22 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


It is my understanding that if you use "is this person a member of a protected class" as part of your decision making in who gets laid off, even if it is just to exclude them from the layoff, then you are actually engaging in discrimination and opening your company up to a potential lawsuit.
posted by interogative mood at 12:25 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Lot of commenters here from the US, eh? In the UK, there is a fairly lengthy process to making most employees redundant (aka laying them off), including providing a formal justification, and then a multi-week “consultation period” where you have to determine if the employee can be moved to a different position in the company. You could certainly have them serve out this period from home (i.e. not working), but I think that’s somewhat rare, since you might as well get them to do some work if you’re still paying them.

I have had to make a number of people redundant in my years of running a small company. I have always done it myself, in person, and I will always talk to the employee for as long as they would like. Some prefer to get it over and done with as soon as possible, others will ask a lot of questions, and some will unburden themselves with every criticism of me they’ve been storing up for years.

Most companies ask a lot of their employees, and most owners and managers are paid handsomely for their work. As such, I have absolute contempt for anyone doesn’t have the minimum quantity of courage and respect to fire employees in person.
posted by adrianhon at 1:11 PM on June 30 [10 favorites]


Where do H.R. people learn to talk in that somehow simultaneously disembodied, smarmy, insincere, condescending voice?
posted by lathrop at 2:12 PM on June 30 [13 favorites]


I was once fired by email for refusing to move to Mexico City to open a new office there, a month after we'd moved to Austin. I think they just wanted me go and came up with a fun way to force it.
Last lay-off was in a group of twenty others while the owners tearfully told us we had to clear our desks and leave immediately, no severance, health insurance cut off three days later. They were very sad though.
Doing it by zoom just seems like HR adapting a new and useful technology of alienation.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:39 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


The PIn, a British comedy duo, have their own take on being fired over Zoom. (Twitter link.)
posted by vac2003 at 2:39 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


So the company I work for so far has done the following:

Mid-March: everyone works from home!

Mid-April: To keep the company alive, everyone has Fridays off, but you need to use your PTO instead!

Mid-May: we're laying 10% of the people off, sadly.

Today: In July you're getting a week furlough. Unpaid. To save the company. And no, we still haven't figured out what'll happen when you run out of PTO.

I fully expect there to be more layoffs and maybe more of a shutdown, which will make my department (technical support) a screaming Hell pit more than usual. We're down four people (two before COVID and two layoffs), and of course, there's a hiring freeze, and right now the department totals six people to handle every call, email, and chat. Summers are better, but when the summer ends, well...

And our CEO is very much of the opinion that we can't be trusted to work from home (even though support has easily measurable metrics).

Meanwhile, someone else ran a "hey let's compare salaries" anonymous survey, and we're finding out that the marketing department is probably going to go up on gibbets when we get back because they get paid more than support, the people that handle the order processing, and the engineers. (Like an engineer makes $80K and someone in Marketing, is making $200K.)

I'm just kind of sitting here and rubbing my eyes from the stress, but at least I'm working from home, so my bad leg is healing a bit and I'm getting decent amounts of sleep.
posted by mephron at 2:40 PM on June 30 [12 favorites]


someone else ran a "hey let's compare salaries" anonymous survey

Man, that's a VERY tempting idea...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:58 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


Bah, who would believe what marketing is telling you?
posted by cardboard at 3:08 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


someone else ran a "hey let's compare salaries" anonymous survey

If your company has a Fishbowl "bowl" - I've found - at least for my own company - that its been a fairly useful resource - and given its anonymity a lot people will freely share that sort of data. For what's it's worth I've been able to validate a lot of the salary type data people share there has been ballpark correct for my organization (I've been able to compare with the ranges I know). I mean I wouldn't post on there anything I wasn't comfortable defending to my boss personally, but others seem to be less risk adverse. It's actually an AskMe I've almost asked a few times - whether Fishbowl has been reliably anonymous so far (realizing past performance is no indicator of future performance in the Cyber world). I haven't looked at Glassdoor etc recently, but find Fishbowl occasionally has some interesting and correct information (alongside the usual anonymous crap).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:13 PM on June 30


Memories. When I was 18 my boss gave me a promotion to manager, and my first job was to tell a third of the people that they didn't need to come back for the next shifts. One woman broke down in tears in front of me because she'd bought a weekly bus pass on the understanding that the cost would be covered by shifts. One of the few promises to myself I've ever kept was never to be anyone's boss ever again.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:38 PM on June 30 [8 favorites]


The firing made me feel like a worthless piece of shit who would probably never work again because no employer would ever want me. The layoff? Whatever, I was new and they made a call.

See, I would think the opposite. I've done firings for cause and firings for performance as a manager, and they're unpleasant, but not difficult. By that point I know I've given the person all the help I can possibly give and they either can't or won't do anything about it. It does not come as a surprise (except for the one guy who didn't think I was serious after multiple "I'm being very serious" conversations.) It's best for them to move on and I don't need to feel bad about it beyond the "wish things had turned out different" dissatisfaction.

I can't imagine having to do a layoff that's not the person's fault and comes as a surprise, though. Ugh.
posted by ctmf at 4:42 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


My father was from Detroit, and still thought of layoffs in the old sense of the word -- temporary reductions in staffing, usually at factories, with the possibility of being rehired once business picked up. I was laid off from an office job some years ago and he asked me how likely it was that I might be rehired in the future. That was an odd conversation.
posted by zombiedance at 4:44 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Now explain to me why companies still deserve two weeks notice when you voluntarily leave.

Between-job time can be wonderful. No stress from the old job. No stress from the new job yet. It's like being reborn.

Being a short timer is nearly as wonderful so I treat those customary two weeks as an extension of my between-job time. I do what I can to prepare my colleagues for my departure but do absolutely. nothing. else.
posted by Sauce Trough at 4:50 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


It is my understanding that if you use "is this person a member of a protected class" as part of your decision making in who gets laid off, even if it is just to exclude them from the layoff, then you are actually engaging in discrimination and opening your company up to a potential lawsuit.

Chances are you're getting a lawsuit regardless. Some fraction will sue even if you're completely on the up and up. The least you can do is take a second look at the list from multiple angles, including the protected class one, and make sure some freak coincidence didn't set you up for an indefensible appearance. (Or, you might find that the person who made the list didn't do it as straightforwardly impartially as you thought)
posted by ctmf at 4:56 PM on June 30


I was fired over the phone while I was on vacation once.

The only time I was fired was the first day of my honeymoon, where the boss had intentionally set me up so he could re-hire one of his buddies who got fired from the job he left the boss for after just three months. The cruise ship had not even left the terminal.

Had I stayed at my last job, I would have been laid-off (excuse me, furloughed) before our state even went into lockdown, because the boss liked to keep his yacht and the state could pay the unemployment.

It is my understanding that if you use "is this person a member of a protected class" as part of your decision making in who gets laid off, even if it is just to exclude them from the layoff, then you are actually engaging in discrimination and opening your company up to a potential lawsuit.

Sure. If there is any documentation. I worked at a company where they were trying to fire a pregnant person for having severe morning sickness in the first trimester. Legally, they could have. Morally, they shouldn't. My boss and I only convinced them not to for morale/PR reasons. All those discussions happened behind closed doors without anyone having a pen or pad of paper. Complete plausible deniability.

Man, I've worked for some shitty companies.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:31 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


>> The firing made me feel like a worthless piece of shit who would probably never work again because no employer would ever want me. The layoff? Whatever, I was new and they made a call.

> See, I would think the opposite. I've done firings for cause and firings for performance as a manager, and they're unpleasant, but not difficult.


You are speaking from the perspective of the person doing the firing. The commenter you are responding to was speaking from the perspective of the person getting fired. Of course you have different experiences.

Also, that's kind of a major detail to have missed in a discussion like this.
posted by Lexica at 5:54 PM on June 30 [20 favorites]


If it makes anyone feel better, I found out I was let go this summer when I got a letter in the mail from COBRA telling me how much time I had left to apply. I called HR and they told me it was a mistake, come in the next day and they’d sort it out. Two days later they let me know that yeah, I was being let go, so sorry you had to find out that way.

I’m still bitter.
posted by Mchelly at 6:33 PM on June 30 [10 favorites]


I was sitting at my desk and the phone rang. It was HR and they wanted to know where to mail my final check. I said, WHAT??? Oh, they said, you didn’t know? I gave them my address and hung up. I walked over to my boss’s office and told him HR just called about my final check. He suddenly had this weird embarrassed look on his face. Oh, he said, that probably wasn’t a good way to hear about this. Thus ended my last job.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:59 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


I can't imagine having to do a layoff that's not the person's fault and comes as a surprise, though. Ugh.

That would be most layoffs, in my experience. The first people whose jobs I terminated were my first team, some of whom were located on other continents and had to be told over the phone because this was 1998. When I was done I walked into my own manager’s office and signed my layoff paperwork.

Some of the situations since have been smaller, but I hope it never gets easier.
posted by Revvy at 8:10 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


My last job ended with a layoff. I was on vacation, and I had given the company a 50/50 chance (if a QA person ever says 50/50, laugh and say OK and know that failure is imminent) before leaving. I was in a cab in Paris on the way to the airport on a lovely afternoon when a bunch of LinkedIn connection requests came flooding in. I called my boss’s cell phone from Rome the next morning (3AM his time), told him to forward the necessary documents to my attorney on file, and hung up.
posted by Revvy at 8:23 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


My last job ended with a layoff. I was on vacation

Not my last job, but, the last time I was laid off, I had just arrived back in the states from an overseas trip. In actuality, the first part of that trip was a work trip to our London office. As soon as I got back I got a call saying I no longer worked there. At first I thought it was some kind of weird joke, but no.

I just got unlucky - there was a round of layoffs while I was gone, so everyone else who was laid off was just summarily walked to the door. I had the bad luck (or good?) of not being there at the time so they had to wait for me to come home. Felt super weird though.

Layoffs are coming where I can work, and I am so nervous about it. I feel fairly confident then I personally am safe, but I think some percentage of my friends and colleagues aren't. I would not want to be looking for a job today for so many different reasons.

I wish all the best to all of you currently laid off, or about to be. I wish I had something for you, but I don't. Our hiring is 100% frozen and layoffs to come. Keep your chin up. As much as it might feel otherwise, this isn't about you, i.e. it's not personal, they had to lay off x% of people, you just got unlucky.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:44 PM on June 30


>>"Someone made a choice about who stays and who goes. Someone placed value on attributes, skills, experience, personality, seniority — someone placed a value on you. And decided you weren't valuable enough."

>I was laid off face-to-face, given severance, paid for my vacation, even training to network for new jobs, and it still felt like the worst moment of my life for the reason in the above quote.


I was furloughed, for COVID reasons that made perfect sense under the circumstances; was assured I would be brought back as soon as possible; and have since actually been brought back...

...and I still feel weird and awkward about being back for the reason in the above quote.
posted by invincible summer at 8:59 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


I read this, and as an American who has pretty much only been employed in unions it sort of blows my mind. My current position I get 60 days notification for any prospective layoffs in the department I work in. 60 days. (Everyone is notified about potential layoffs, then ppl are notified if they are on this list) There's also rules about seniority and how layoffs work, it's super clear.

I was laid off once at an old job. It was definately one of those call a meeting and let you know things, but we had a week or two notice before the job actually ended. There were hints about it, because it was a grant funded position and it was up for renewal which is how social service nonprofits work. So, in that case, HR helped us find positions in the company in other departments if we wanted to look for them. I was rehired and started without missing a single day of pay.

I know that corporate America is a free for all, at will disaster of a thing, but my brain really didn't compute with how insanely lucky I am at the moment, but that could change really really easily.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:25 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


To be honest I've found the best way to minimize the trauma of getting laid off is to make a deliberate, conscious effort to not give a shit about any job I have. Do what's needed to keep the job and that's it.
Don't waste passion on something that isn't yours and can be taken away at a day's notice.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:12 PM on June 30 [17 favorites]


In fact, you could give your two weeks notice and get fired that same minute, although that is extra extra shitty.

In my neck of the woods (which = Shitty Big Tech) this is in fact quite common, though not universal either. Not everybody who gives notice gets STAT shut off and walked out the door, but many do. I'm not privy to the HR profiling algorithm involved, but it appear to involve whether you've come to corporate attention as a troublemaker. When I quit, if I don't go out this way, I will take it as, as they say in these parts, a learning.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:40 AM on July 1


Two months ago the new boss called an all hands meeting at my location, with no agenda. There's always been an agenda. And then we noticed that an HR person was also invited. So there was a few hours of general low-level panic before the meeting. Turns out the HR person was just there to inform about COVID measures, and that the boss had just forgot to attach the agenda. Someone nicely asked him to please don't do that again.
posted by Harald74 at 1:10 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I might have the possibility of swapping jobs right now, from my small company that has downsized my location time and again the last few years (moving production to low-cost countries etc) and are probably pretty likely to do it again (sales figures during COVID are awful...) I just escaped the axe a couple of years ago. The target company is big and solid and has a sudden need for many, many more developers. I've worked there before and liked it, but jumped ship for more exciting opportunities. So I have a second interview tomorrow, and was tossing and turning in bed last night. One of the things going through my head was the feeling that I'm leaving the current company in a bind. I'm thankful to this thread for reminding me that that kind of loyalty is a fool's game. (Even in countries with robust regulations and social safety nets companies behave like grumpy sociopaths to the extent they can get away with...)
posted by Harald74 at 1:20 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I'm stunned by the inhumanity of the firing process so many posters describe. To my Dutch eyes, it's not only brutal but brutalising. The absence of respect and consideration for the employee, their treatment as little more than units of production or risk (once fired), the absence of any genuine process is shocking. The Netherlands is no paradise and inevitably shit happens here too but in principle, we do not treat each other like this. My unit was 'reorganised' out of existence, we weren't fired, our jobs disappeared. The intent was the same, to get rid of certain people (me!) but the process was dramatically different. It took 2 years, we were on full salary throughout, 'tho' restricted in what we were allowed to do. We were helped to look for other jobs, no computers were unplugged or email accounts closed. By the time the process had run its course, I was just shy of the earliest retirement age of 55 but even so was allowed to retire. My employer made up 50% of the shortfall in pension payments I would have received in the 10 years to 65. Even so I found the whole thing devastating, my ego crumbled, it took me years to get over it. I shudder to think how I would have fared in the USA. I feel for all of you who have been through this.
posted by dutchrick at 2:27 AM on July 1 [17 favorites]


In a particular research institute of my university more than half the employees were hired on contracts of 1-3 years. In the past maybe 50-70% of them at the end of their contracts have been rolled onto a permanent contract in other parts of the university with no end date (the closest Australia has to tenure.) Of the rest, a fair number tends to get a second time-limited contract.

In our weekly institute zoom meeting the other week the director did the usual news round up, announcements, then there were a couple of research talks, then the director made some more mundane announcements. Then she closed the meeting by simply saying, (with no prior warning to the folks affected) "of course you know COVID-19 has had a big impact on our university budget, so one of the consequences will be that no one currently on fixed term contracts will be made permanent or renewed."

So for more than half the people on that call they basically just learned they lost their jobs. In some ways not as awful as being fired on the spot, maybe, but on the other hand, having to keep working with people over a few months with a ticking timebomb over your head is pretty horrible too. And it's not like other universities will be hiring any time soon.

It just seemed a heartless way to make the announcement. Even a personal email to each person would have been better, in my opinion.
posted by lollusc at 6:59 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine having to do a layoff that's not the person's fault and comes as a surprise, though. Ugh.

That would be most layoffs, in my experience.


In the US this matches my experience as well. Performance, attendance, etc. may all figure into termination when firing, but all the layoffs I've seen, including the last round at my university, bore no relationship to job performance, and offered no substantial rationale beyond "right-sizing" and "adjustment" and "restructuring."
posted by aspersioncast at 9:46 AM on July 1


offered no substantial rationale

Well, this is the thing. If you offer a rationale you give somebody a reason to question that rationale (up to and including them getting a lawyer to question it for them). What I've seen is that layoffs may sometimes be engineered to take out particular people who maybe could be fired for cause (or at least who don't have the favor of management), but firing for cause is hard. Offering no rationale beyond a vague "eliminating positions" or "changing direction" or whatever means you're not providing any kind of justification at all for a wrongful termination claim. It can take six months to two years to build up a case to fire somebody for performance, but arbitrary layoffs can happen at any time for any reason.
posted by fedward at 10:02 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]


Like so many things about corporations, liability, and "human resources," that both makes perfect sense and is profoundly fucked up.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:55 AM on July 1


I'm stunned by the inhumanity of the firing process so many posters describe.

I've physically vomited several times in the last few weeks after having to lay people off here in the US during COVID, several while their cities were also under curfew due to the ongoing protests. That and the ongoing shit fuckery of the POTUS and attempts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act among many other things. Sometimes I hear HR folks talk about the lay-off process in terms of trying to reduce negative outcomes. I came to realize that "negative outcomes" didn't mean lawsuits. It actually really means people committing suicide, self-harm, or harm to others.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 1:55 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


When it's so bad that they write songs about it.
"I don't know if you've heard, but we're headed in an exciting new direction..."
posted by prepmonkey at 6:55 PM on July 1


The pandemic has brought out all the worst and most dehumanizing aspects of capitalism and made them acceptable under the guise of “efficiency” and “new technologies”. I wish I could say I was surprised this happened, but...
posted by thatsaskatchewangirl at 8:11 PM on July 1


I had a job where I worked remotely and the office was an hour from my house. It wasn’t going great, and they called and asked me to come to the office. I responded that if you’re going to fire me, just please do it now over the phone and save me the drive. They assured me no, no, we just need to talk to you. I drove to the office. They fired me. I drove two hours just to get fired. So yeah, it’s not for everyone in every situation, but it has its time and place.

I literally clicked on the thread just to say - it's certainly better than getting asked to come into work when you've been working from home and you know they wouldn't be calling you in if somebody wasn't getting laid off.
posted by atoxyl at 3:28 AM on July 2


Striking, for me, was the iron curtain that descends between the old world and the new -- at the moment H.R. announces the axe. (Pardon the mixed metaphors.) As of that moment, no honest human communication occurs.

Previously I was a valued member of the team, a senior, knowledgeable resource -- integral to operations, cross- training colleagues, developing improvements to processes, writing reports. Meeting requests; filing away ideas for the future. There might be interested, concerned conversations about the weekend, hobbies, personal projects, etc. Mentor relationships with other senior figures. A manager who seems to care for and respect me; for whom I care and work...

People I spend the bulk of my day, of my week with -- and mostly come to like and share a sense of common goals with.

Now: all those bonds of sociability, of care, sharing, etc. are severed as if they never existed, and no honest communications between me and these people is allowed; in general none whatsoever happens.

This is one of the things that capitalism does to human relations.
posted by lathrop at 7:51 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


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