The manner in which an employee is separated or terminated by their employee very rarely matters to the individual who has lost their job. However, the way you characterize your loss of a job may have far-reaching consequences and impact your next position.
Layoffs are usually associated with a change in business conditions involving financial conditions, the marketplace, the loss of a major contract, a shortage of raw materials, the discontinuance of products and services, or the reorganization of the business where the position itself is eliminated and the occupant of the position will not normally be replaced.
Firings are the result of individual actions and behaviors that do not meet with management approval or violate company policy in some manner. It is a “for cause” termination. The terminated occupant of the position may or may not be replaced depending on the wishes of management and the requirements of the enterprise. In many cases, the alternatives to the stigma of being fired and having to admit to having being fired on an employment application can be mitigated by a voluntary agreement to resign, the more elegant term for quitting or bugging-out.
Why organizations, especially those with a significant public presence, may choose to characterize a necessary reduction in force as firings are that layoffs may leave the public impression of poor management, lack of sufficient reporting and controls, or the inability of management to deal with business circumstances as they arise.
Layoffs should not be characterized as involuntary terminations as nobody voluntarily agrees to termination unless they are offered a compensation package to leave the enterprise.
What to tell others, personally and professionally …
Getting terminated is an emotional event with life-changing implications, and it is not unsurprising that people blow-up at management, co-workers, and others nearby. The first rule of a breakup should demand that you be polite and professional. You never know when you may need a reference or encounter an individual from your previous company. Leave with dignity and grace.
And, while you may not feel good about yourself or your position, it is important to process your feelings in a healthy manner. Therefore, just talking with people – in a neutral manner and without assigning blame – is an important part of the process of securing psychological closure.
In the case of a layoff, simply explain the existing conditions and the company’s position. Nothing further is needed.
In the case of a firing, you may suggest that there were cultural compatibility issues or failures of interpersonal relationships. Whether speaking to co-workers after the firing or outsiders, do not go into detail if it requires “bad-mouthing” the company, its management, or your fellow employees. When faced with an interview for a new position, you may add some of the lessons you learned and which will never be repeated or more preferentially, how you have made corrections and improved your skills.
In all cases, admit that it is what it is – and that you are concentrating your efforts on recovery and building additional resiliency rather than trying to assess blame.
Stay calm, admit that this is a difficult situation and that you will be just fine moving forward. NO DRAMA which may leave a lasting memory of your nasty or abrupt departure.