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Layoff Phenomenon: The Sayonara Email

Layoffs suck. I’m sure I could phrase it more delicately, but — to use one of the overused similes of 2008 — that’s like putting lipstick on a pig. And one of the worst parts about losing your job this way is saying good-bye. How people handle this awful situation can make a huge difference. I returned from jury duty this afternoon to find several brief email messages from Yahoo! colleagues who were laid off today. While I’m still dealing with the shock over their departures, I am impressed and moved by the spirit and class they showed in their messages.

Layoffs suck. I’m sure I could phrase it more delicately, but — to use one of the overused similes of 2008 — that’s like putting lipstick on a pig. And one of the worst parts about losing your job this way is saying good-bye.

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How people handle this awful situation can make a huge difference. I returned from jury duty this afternoon to find several brief email messages from Yahoo! colleagues who were laid off today. While I’m still dealing with the shock over their departures, I am impressed and moved by the spirit and class they showed in their messages.

Recently some blogs have turned such mass layoffs (especially those at my employer, Yahoo!) into a sort of spectator sport, offering chances for brand-new ex-employees to trash the company and its leaders. Those revenge impulses are understandable in response to raw feelings of hurt, betrayal, and more. And email makes it very easy to virtually flip the bird to the company and its remaining employees. All this magnifies how much layoffs suck.

I have edited articles and been interviewed aplenty about how to depart from a job without “burning bridges,” and I was encouraged to see that principle in action today. Most of the colleagues I heard from offered brief messages that focused on how they benefited from their work and their coworkers, closing with good wishes and details on how to stay in touch.

I may never know how agonizing it was for some of them to be gracious and write those messages today. I applaud their choice, not only as a good career move. I regret to say that I didn’t handle myself as well when I was laid off from a previous job several years ago.

I hated seeing many talented associates let go in this way, and I’m sure it was much, much worse for them. But their actions today affirmed a lot about their character and professionalism. Not to mention their prospects for landing a new job.