I work in software engineering in the West Coast of the United States and I am a part of a dev team of about 45 full-time people. Recently, 30 of those people got laid off. Those 30 people will continue to work for the company for the next 4 weeks to help off board and transition some of the projects. Following those 4 weeks they will leave with a severance package.

This may sound strange but I was slightly disappointed to be 1 of the 15 chosen to stay at the company. I was already swirling the idea around my head to leave the company before any of this happened. I really like the idea of being able to work for next 4 weeks + severance afterwards and not trying to hide finding a new job and since there is so few people left, requesting a day off gets everyone assuming you are at an interview that day.

Is it possible to request a lay off or severance package? I have never been in this situation before. I imagine there is no good way to even request that and I might be fired on the spot.

  • Has anyone heard of requesting a lay off if chosen to stay during a big lay off?
  • Anyone been in a similar situation and can give their experience?
  • Is it maybe possible to switch with someone who wants to stay but got a lay off?
  • I was in a similar situation once, though in my case the company explicitly said at the beginning that they would not be taking volunteers. So it's clearly not unheard of. It's too bad. At the time, I was in my last semester of a master's degree program, had enough seniority to get a severance package worth 7 months of pay, and was kind of tired of being there anyway. Being able to just focus on school for the next 3 months, then have an additional 4 months of pay to look for a another job (with a newly-minted degree!) sounded really attractive. I did not get chosen though.
    – Seth R
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 21:41
  • You would need to have done this before who go to be made redundant was decided - you can ask HR but your unlikely to get what you want. Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 17:31

3 Answers 3


This is a complicated situation. First, you need to understand how a layoff works: Typically there is a prioritized list of people in the work force. The more important you are, the higher you end up on this list. Importance a complicated mixture of skill, culture fit, domain knowledge and just being at the right place at the right time. Apparently you ended up on this list somewhere between place 1 and place 15. Understanding what's "special" about you, can help to better negotiate and offer constructive options.

Secondly, you need to form an opinion on the outlook of the company. Moderate layoffs are painful but can also be healthy to cut fat and improve efficiency. However, 2/3 layoff is clearly cause for major alarm. Unless there is a really good story of how they are planning to dig out of a hole that big, you need to start polishing your resume anyway. If the outlook is poor, you at least know that you have nothing much to loose, so anything is fair game.

Thirdly: craft your strategy. You can ask to volunteer, but it's typically a good idea to put a positive angle on it: "Hey boss, I'm financially ok at the moment, but I know that Joe has three small kids to feed. I'd be willing to leave voluntarily if it eases the hardship on someone else".

If they don't go for it and you don't have high hopes for the company, you can actually ask for incentives to stay. After a layoff like this, most remaining employees that still have a working brain will start actively looking and the company knows that there is serious risk of attrition. Again, you need to bring this up "tactfully". For example "Hey boss, with 2/3 of the people gone, the rest of us will have to dig in pretty hard to compensate. Do you think we can do something to help with this: over time pay, bonus, or some other form of compensation".

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    I started writing an answer, then realized I was basically saying the same thing as you. I think you covered it.
    – Seth R
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 21:42

Taking your questions one-by-one:

Is it possible to request a lay off or severance package?

Anything's possible, but you don't know what the results of such a request will be. If you make it clear you want out, you run the risk of management showing you the door immediately and without the nice severance package.

Has anyone heard of requesting a lay off if chosen to stay during a big lay off?

Personally, I have never heard of it, but - even when we're not happy with our jobs - most people want to stay in them while they look for another so they keep money flowing into their financial accounts.

Anyone been in a similar situation and can give their experience?

I have not been in such a situation. The only times I have faced mass layoffs involved contracts changing from one company to another and the new company picked up nearly all the old company's employees.

Is it maybe possible to switch with someone who wants to stay but got a lay off?

That is a question for your company's management, as they often make these choices for a reason. It may be that they see you as one of the most productive 1/3 of the company and thus they want to keep you around; alternatively, maybe you are one of the lowest paid employees, so you fit the budget better.

How is your relationship with your immediate boss? If it's good, and you 100% trust him/her to offer candid, honest advice and also maintain confidentiality, you might talk to them, telling them that you had been thinking of making a change already, so you would like to switch with one of the laid off employees. Personally, I would think long and hard before going that route, as the boss' first responsibility is really to the company.

  • Don’t forget this additional fact if you end up finding a way to be laid off with severance, when ask the reason your no longer working at the company, you will have to tell them you were let go. The fact you volunteered to do so might not change their first impression when hearing that news.
    – Donald
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 4:34
  • There is nothing wrong with being one of thirty out of 45 who were laid off.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 13:19
  • @gnasher729: I didn't say there was. Although those how are not independently wealthy (including me) would tend to be unhappy with the loss of income.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 2:49

You can ask, obviously. In most cases, there is a reason why some people were picked to be laid off and some were not, so your request will be rejected. Obviously you can quit anyway, but in that case you won't get a severance package.

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