I have been laid off, and I am really trying to understand the reasons / reasoning behind it. Below is the context:

  1. We knew before hand that our company is going to do the process of layoffs.
  2. As a first step, they made groups of 4 in terms of highest priority projects.
  3. This priority was shared with everyone, and our project was in the top 5.
  4. Additionally, a lot of roadmap activities / meetings were conducted and a detailed roadmap was designed; user stories created, etc.
  5. Backlog grooming sessions had identified the resource bottleneck possibilities.
  6. Based on this bottleneck, I was asked if I needed help from a member of an offshore team to help relieve the bottleneck.

After all of this, I realized, that the chances of me getting laid off are close to zero!

I have tried reading various articles available online about the possible reasons for layoffs, and their assumptions are not matching with the context I was in.

And there is absolutely no better than a round / sugar coated answer I am getting from my superior on the reason of layoff.

How can I deal with understanding the reason behind a layoff and capturing unsaid signs / issues that could have been a reason for this?

  • 4
    I don't think there is an answer that would be satisfying, but your case is a good example of why it is a good idea to always be at least passively searching for new opportunities. Your company does that when they look for acquisitions, cost-cutting and new markets. Individuals should do the equivalent to protect their career and interests as well. As soon one senses possible layoffs, it is prudent to update the resume (or better always have it up-to-date) and start exploring options. It may very well be that you get laid-off before jumping to a new job, but at least you have a head-start.
    – teego1967
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 23:38
  • How tight are the company finances? This would be the big question to my mind as if the company doesn't have the money to pay employees, then what else would you expect them to do? If the company doesn't have the money, then it has to make tough choices.
    – JB King
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 0:40
  • 3
    "Love your job but don't love the company you work for, because you may not know when your company stops loving you" Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 0:40

5 Answers 5


You are going to be fine.

This isn't going to completely answer your question - you don't give enough details for me to do that.

You mention 6 points, only 3 of them are relevant.

The first warning sign - klaxon really, no, klaxxxxxon (the more x's the more serious) - is this

  1. Based on this bottleneck, i was asked if needed help from member of an offshore to help releieve the bottleneck

Any time at all that you work with an offshore (which means "cheaper" - I don't know if that is the case here but that's what the language implies) team member, you have to be aware that this can be a covert way of you "training your replacement."

Training up a lesser-trained and cheaper team member is a great way to be made redundant. There typically isn't a whole lot you can do about it1 but you should be immediately aware that something Very Wrong is going on.

You also note

  1. This priority was shared with everyone, and our project was in the top 5

The importance of the project you are working on means nothing if you are not inseparable from it. Being put on an important project, while generally awesome, doesn't mean you cannot be pulled off it. Or that they just needed (as I suspect in your case) someone to train a cheaper worker to work on the role.


  1. WE knew before hand that our company is going to do the process of lay offs

When your company says they are doing layoffs, start looking immediately, and earnestly. Just assume you're getting fired - any company doing layoffs is in pretty bad shape, unless it is planning on being bought out. In which case you'll probably get replaced later on by someone from the buying-out company anyway, so you might as well start looking immediately.

You ask about strategically going wrong - there are any number of ways you could have gone wrong, none will be things you did recently.

  1. Perhaps you are a great negotiator, and were paid better than your peers? If that is the case, well, you also have a giant red target on your back.
  2. Were you very very close with your boss? Like, best friends close? That always helps in redundancies.
  3. Did you have the appearance of a hard worker - early in, last to leave? In redundancy time, you better believe the hardest workers are kept
  4. Did you make an essential and inexplicably complicated contribution? Great workers make their work clear and easy to understand. Unfireable workers have complicated work that nobody can understand that spreads and spreads and is impossible to remove. This works best in programming or finance - think technical roles. However if you were an admin and filed things in an obfuscated manner, that would count too.

You also want to know

Can some body who has gone through a similar situation tell me, what could be the factors behind lay off in such a situation as mine?

Well, typically they could get someone cheaper to do your work. Or they could get by without your work. Or they didn't like you. Or they liked other people more. Or they paid other people less. Or the other people had tight contracts with payoffs. Or ... there is no single answer to this question.

Finally, you ask

I need to understand this to get some peace of mind. And may be to understand where did i strategically go wrong.

No you don't. Don't worry about it. Just go find a new job, and do your best at that. Do not take being fired personally, ever. Not because it wasn't personal (although in this case i doubt it was personal) but because it doesn't matter.

What matters is having the income you need to live a happy, healthy life. Getting upset about something that has happened in the past, and that cannot be changed, and that you had no control over is not going to help with that. In 6 months, this will sting less. In 6 years? Not at all. Trust me. I've been fired/let go before, I know a lot of people have. It is all part of life, like, well, like falling down. You get back up when you fall down, so get back up into another job now.

Take it from me, when you were a baby you couldn't walk, you fell down every day. And now? You probably rarely fall (although it will still happen). It's the same with everything else in life, you just have to get up and not fret about it.

You are going to be fine.


1: There is. Do a terrible job at training them. If the company needs you to train someone and you don't, well, they can fire you - but they still need you to train the person! This sounds insane, but I have seen it work.

EDIT comments about the footnote are that it is "unprofessional" (and it is). In this particular question however, I am dealing with inuring yourself to redundancy time. As always, you should always look for new work during redundancy time. However, if you are in dire need of the work, trust me, being fed with a roof over your head trumps professionalism. Every. Time.

  • I agree with everything except the idea in your footnote. If you end up training your replacement, the classy thing to do is to do the best you can (while also looking for new work). Doing a bad job deliberately is not fair to the replacement, nor will it really help the person being replaced.
    – teego1967
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:28
  • 2
    Answer was worthy of an upvote, but the footnote was so bad it earned a downvote. So +1/-1. You suggest the last impression you want to give is that of doing a bad job? Instead you should show you are better than that and do an amazing job. It's a tough situation, and showing you excel despite that will leave a good lasting impression. The coworker you have today may be a boss you interview with years from now.
    – Fredrik
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 8:36
  • @bharal - i was asked if i wanted help from a member of an offshore team. But i had said no. And i was the only quality engineer in the team, with too much work lined up already.....But as you said, whats done is done. ITs best for me to accept it, may be i have but every once in a while, i feel cheated.
    – nysa
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 10:20
  • 2
    @teego1967 sometimes you need - need - the work. It might not be fair, and it isn't "professional". But the tactic will work, and that's what the question is about. The question is not about professionalism in the workplace.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 11:38
  • @Fredrik see above ~ look, i'm not saying "on your way out slam the door". Actually, it looks great when you put in hard work on your way out. But if you don't want to be out in the first place, then the footnote stands firm.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 11:39

Can some body who has gone through a similar situation tell me, what could be the factors behind lay off in such a situation as mine?

What went wrong is that you thought you understand the calculus used to determine layoffs. When you first hear of layoff you should assume that you will directly or indirectly be hurt by them. In a direct way you can lose your job, or see a reduction in pay; in an indirect way you can be forced to change your job or work location.

Everybody hopes that they are safe, but management never tells you exactly what they are trying to achieve. Are they trying to reduce the number of locations or people? Are they trying to reduce the number of people on overhead? Are they reacting to the losses in some part of their business so everybody related to that part is at risk?

How they get to those goals is always a mystery. Sometimes they save or cut people based on what project they are on, other times they cut or save based on specific evaluations. It is possible to be the best person, and underpaid but still be cut; other times an overpaid under-performer will be saved.

Keep in mind in large layoffs there is little you can do to avoid the axe once you are identified by their system. I have seen surprises with every layoff, including people getting notices the day after winning an award for outstanding performance.

Next time be prepared to jump so that if the axe comes you are ready.

  • Thank you mhoran_psprep!!! And all the others. It has really helped me understand the one thing - 1) I was assuming / overconfident i wont be cut and 2) therefore, i did not prepare myself.
    – nysa
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 14:21

Sometimes there is no discernible reason why one person was laid off and another was kept.

Many years ago I worked for a rather large company which laid off a few hundred employees. We were told about 2 months before it happened that it was coming. They did the layoffs in stages on a friday. Over the course of a few hours you either got an email from HR telling you to see your manager or you didn't. It was really odd sitting there wondering if I was next.

A little background: I was a contractor at the end of the 90 day "trial" period. During that 3 months I had contributed about 4 hours worth of actual work and sat on my hands the rest of the time. Yes I asked my boss every single day for something and every day he told me there was no work to be performed. So I knew that I was going to be walked out.

I wasn't. Not only was I not terminated but the following Monday I was offered a full time position making more than I was as a contractor. It was truly a twilight zone moment.

The layoffs honestly appeared to be completely random because I knew the people I saw gather their stuff and leave actually had work to do. Either they were in the middle of projects or their stuff was finishing up QA and near deployment.

My point is, sometimes there is no explanation. Or at least, there isn't one that will ever be given to you. The best you can do is realize that it was completely out of your hands and be at peace with that. Take a day or two to do something fun then begin the job search ready to go.


I have worked for a very long time, both as a contractor and an employee. I have survived over 10 layoffs, and have been laid off probably 10 times over the course of my career, the last one 2 months ago.

Never take a layoff personally

Sometimes, your project gets cancelled, and the entire team is downsized.

Sometimes, management has to make their numbers work for the quarter or the year and they decide one way to do that is by cutting staff.

There is no standard formula for deciding who gets to stay and who gets a pink slip.

It's been my experience that upper management decides each division or department needs to cut their budget by a certain amount. The division/department managers typically get to decide how they are going to cut their budget. Sometimes, the low-level managers (i.e. direct supervisors) are consulted, sometimes they are not.

Sometimes your manager will fight to keep you; or another manager in another department will decide they want you (this actually happened to me one time), and instead of getting laid off, you get transferred to a different department.

Sometimes your manager will decide you are making too much money compared to the other people in your department, or you are doing work that's below your current pay grade (because that's all the work there is), and they'll let you go because they can get the work done by someone cheaper than you.

Sometimes the only way to really understand why layoffs went the way they did is to understand the financials of the company to a degree that regular workers are not privy to, but it generally boils down to not meeting financial goals in a big way.

It's not cheap to lay people off, so the cost benefit has to be larger than the cost of letting those employees go.

  • Can you please clarify why it is not cheap to lay people off? I was recently laid off, but there was no severance pay or anything. The business in question is a relatively small company with (then) five employees + boss.
    – sequence
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 0:12

To address specifically your questions...

Can some body who has gone through a similar situation tell me, what could be the factors behind lay off in such a situation as mine?

It usually comes down to money and strategy. Either the company is losing money, is not making enough of it, or a specific initiative (eg a sale or acquisition) has failed and someone at the top has decided to cut costs and make changes as a result. The prioritization of projects and flurry of activity you saw may have been part of the plan to wind down parts of the business in a way that keeps it from losing even more money.

I need to understand this to get some peace of mind. And may be to understand where did i strategically go wrong.

You are wrong only because you assume that it is possible to know if you're going to "be safe" from lay-offs. The management has the problem of keeping the business running while implementing the staff cut. There is no nice way of doing this. It means that they have to get work out of people who they fully intent to terminate in the near future. If they just told them their intentions, the staff would not be as productive, would spend a lot of time job-hunting and then leave on their own timetables.

As far as what you could have done differently, you should take layoffs as a signal that things are going wrong and ramp up a job search as soon as possible. It helps to keep yourself perpetually ready by keeping your professional network and resume always up-to-date. It doesn't hurt to interview with other companies regularly to openly explore options even if you have no intention of leaving soon.

Also, you can help yourself by keeping informed about the business performance of the company. Even if the company is private, you can develop relationships with others who know what is going on. This can help you to see problems ahead of time so that you have an opportunity to prepare in whatever way you choose.

Any advice / comments ?

The other answers cover that well. In general, don't take it personally, learn and move on.

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