2

Hypothetical as things stand now, but it has happened to me in the past and I didn't find a good Q&A already on here.

Scenario: Due to business conditions (cost cutting), a change in direction by the company (exiting that particular business area) or something similar we were called into a meeting by the head honchos of our organizational unit -- subsequently followed up with information in writing -- and told that our roles will no longer exist pending successful completion of a winding up / outsourcing project in, let's say, September 2019 (it's March now, so approx 6 months). This layoff would affect myself and around 50 other people who work at this location.

There have been several rounds of layoffs before but generally in a much shorter time frame i.e. 1 month's notice that the people would no longer have a place in that company (and fewer people affected at a time). There's been a total of 3 rounds of layoffs that I can think of in 7 years.

Question: Leaving out considerations of personal circumstances (i.e.... do I need a continued paycheck and cannot take any risk), would it be better-perceived in the future, e.g. in other interviews, to look for other employment now and leave voluntarily (forfeiting the severance package which would be around $15,000) or to stick it out until the end and then begin looking when in the final notice period?

Other considerations:

  • there's a retention bonus of $5,000 if I stay until the end (but would then be forced to look for new work quickly)
  • most of my work in the "interim" period would be knowledge transfer and successful winding down which needs to be done correctly and I'm the "key" person for that
  • there's a definite time period given (6 months) but I think it's likely that this will slip and so it could go on and on in the future with "we are likely to need another 3 months" etc.
  • I'm a "senior" relative to other members of my team (e.g. I train new people and coach people on things they are struggling with) but I'm not a manager and certainly not a CxO type!

In future interviews, if asked about why I left this company, I'm not sure if it's acceptable to say something like "I had been told that our unit would be closing in 6 months time so I jumped early rather than stick it out and left others to pick up the pieces" (obviously I wouldn't say exactly that in an interview, but it would become apparent from further questioning!)

I don't know if it's a bad thing to put across, or if employers want someone who will "go down with the ship" so to speak?

I would especially appreciate answers from current or previous "Hiring Managers" as to how you would perceive either situation.

ETA based on the suggested "duplicate" question: in this situation I'm not part of a "pool" of people of which 'some' will be laid off. It would be a complete closure or outsourcing of that whole unit (so there isn't a chance for someone else out of my 5-person team to keep their job, for example). We have been told that "these are the positions that will be laid off" (including myself) not just "we need to cut 1000 out of 3000 (or whatever) people".


My impressions: (not really part of the question) that leaving the situation early rather than just resign myself to my fate and then take whatever action I am forced into as I'm now unemployed... is sort of a "passive" way to do things. Jumping early I would see as "saw how a situation was panning out and took positive direction to change it rather than just go along with the inevitable" but that's my personal viewpoint rather than a view of a company!

However giving up a "guaranteed" severance of $15,000 and a retention bonus of $5,000 does seem like it could be perceived as "gambling" and being very risk seeking. (Actually I do have a fairly high risk tolerance which may be affecting the whole situation) and playing devils advocate as the employer I don't know if I would want someone who "gambled" $20k on the chance of a new job being better than the one they could get in 6 months time!

  • The employers want you to stay so they get to "jump" first... – Solar Mike Mar 2 at 20:06
  • @SolarMike can you expand? You mean that the future interviewer would 'want the person to stay' so they know the person has this trait that can be (let's say) 'exploited' in the future? – user100804 Mar 2 at 20:11
  • 1
    Possible duplicate : workplace.stackexchange.com/q/42658/75821 – Solar Mike Mar 2 at 20:13
  • Thanks, I did review that question but I don't think it's a duplicate because the questioner seems to be asking what to do in their own short-term situation rather than how it would be perceived in the future. – user100804 Mar 2 at 20:15
  • Speaking as a hiring manager who's conducted hundreds of interviews, future employers aren't going to care, and may never know, which option you took. They're certainly not going to analyse to the depth you are, in your question's text. Follow typical advise in other questions and do whatever's best for you in terms of your long-term financial and employment goals. – dwizum Mar 4 at 14:10
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I would think that for future interviews it wouldn't matter which option you picked.

Leaving before you're laid off

The option of leaving early is completely understandable, why would someone want to stick around a company knowing they'll be let go, unless it was advantageous to them?

The opportunity cost of not finding another job is something to consider too, I'd rather spend the 6 months learning a new job than (potentially) not learning anything.

You have the luxury of having 6 months to find a new job, use it to find a job you truly want without the concern of paying bills.

As for the perception of leaving early and potentially putting your existing employer in a bind, don't feel bad, they're letting you go, and I would assume future employers would understand this.

Leaving when you're laid off

If the monetary value of staying is significant, it would be understandable to stick around to earn it. This may also portray some professionalism on your end as well if you say that you like to see projects through to completion.

5

For now, stay.

However, you can always start looking for a new position today. If you find a new position, you can always decide between:

  • Give notice, and start the new job after your notice period. You would be forfeiting your severance package and your retention bonus.
  • Negotiate the starting date of the new job till after your current job ends. That will keep your rights to a severance package and the retention bonus.

Since your severance package is about $15k, and the retention bonus is another $5k, I'd go for the latter option.

As for future interviews, don't sweat it. I've had the experience of being laid off because of cost cutting/change of direction/redundancy several times. I've "jumped ship" before employers went bankrupt. I've never noticed that this was ever taken in a negative way. Being laid off for reasons of cost cutting/change of direction/redundancy is common. Whatever company you end up interviewing with may have went through several rounds of this in its history.

  • Did that experience come up in interviews? I'm really curious to know what sort of discussion you had about that... :-) – user100804 Mar 2 at 20:53
  • Also is your redundancy money tax free – Neuromancer Mar 2 at 20:56
  • @Neuromancer the redundancy itself would be tax free but the bonus would be taxable as if it was a normal bonus earned through employment (for good performance or whatever). – user100804 Mar 2 at 21:05
  • @user100804 I don't recall ever had any discussion about it; the few times it did come up I mention it, and that was it. Even just being asked why I've left a company is rare in my recollection. – Abigail Mar 3 at 17:29
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I've been in this situation, and it didn't really matter to future interviewers. When asked why I was leaving, I said "our division is being shut down in three months". Nobody who interviewed me challenged or probed this; layoffs and company failures are common and I don't think most people expect rank-and-file employees to "go down with the ship" -- you've got to secure your own income. If you were an executive, that might be different.

I, like you, had the option to stay and do cleanup/knowledge transfer/etc. We were actually given a choice: leave tomorrow and get a small severance package, or stay for up to three months and do that work. Most of us stayed (on the theory that the company could fund our job hunts), but, as you'd expect, attrition was high -- as soon as you got a better offer you left. This meant that, as the weeks went by, staying became more and more demoralizing. A bonus for staying to the end would have had to be pretty substantial to make that worthwhile. I was getting a small weekly bonus for staying, and I still left halfway through.

1

Nobody will blame you for staying, and nobody will blame you for leaving. "How will this be perceived in the future" is nothing you need to worry about at all.

If you stay for 6 months, you will get your normal salary, plus $5,000 bonus (most likely taxable), plus $15,000 for severance you said (most likely not taxable, but you better check. You can ask the company, because they should know, and if it's not taxable then they would really want to tell everyone because it costs them the same, but is more value for the employee).

I would suggest - but that is just my suggestion - that you can start looking for jobs now but only for offers that are really good and worth losing $20,000 for. When your contract comes to an end, that's when you look for just a job (but starting late enough so you keep your severance pay).

If anyone wants you to start early and doesn't understand "I will lose $20,000 if I start early" is an irrational employer, and you don't want to start there anyway.

0

Unless you are an indentured servant, you owe no allegiance to your current employer. If you choose to leave now and if this question comes up in future interviews it is sufficient to say "My position was eliminated". You owe no further explanation than that.

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