How Do You Handle Layoff Rumors?

You’re at work and you accidentally overhear a conversation between your boss and his boss.  You learn that they need to lay off one person in your division in order for the company to stay viable.  They’ve got to decide between laying you off or laying off your teammate.

Your teammate is good – very good – and you are one of the few in the office that knows that he’s about to be a father for the first time.

Do you:

  • Let your teammate know what you’ve heard?
  • “Accidentally” let your boss know about the coming child, and remark about how work quality can decrease in proportion with lost sleep?
  • Sabotage your teammates current project?
  • Update your resume, contact a recruiter and/or your competitors in your industry to start your new role on a new team?
  • Talk to your boss about taking a leave of absence while business is slow and work on your own freelance projects or take the vacation you’ve always wanted?
  • Provide your boss with an alternative to layoffs altogether (your department takes a 5% cut in pay, but everyone gets to keep working)?
  • Wait and see – let the best man win?

Though the economy is starting to stabilize, this question isn’t outlandish right now.

How would you handle it?

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After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at


  1. Donny Kurnia on the 31st July

    Wait and see – let the best man win?

  2. Caitlin on the 31st July

    “Update your resume, contact a recruiter and/or your competitors in your industry to start your new role on a new team”

    This one. The first thing I do with layoff rumors is polish up my resume and start shaking the trees a bit. I’ve been laid off too many times in my career, and I prefer to take control of the situation. If I can find something else, I can make sure we both have jobs.

    Note, however, that I have no faith in a company to do what’s right for the employees due to all I’ve seen/experienced. If I were with a small company and knew that they saw it as a last resort I might try to find a way for us both to stay, but no company I’ve ever worked for has deserved that level of loyalty from me or shown me that level of loyalty.

  3. Troy Peterson on the 31st July

    I completley agree with Caitlin… A company can talk all they want about “loyalty” and “family”, but it’s a one way street NOT in the employees favor.

    Having been in both positions, on the receiving and the delivery side of a layoff, most of the time it comes down to numbers and to some extent politics.

    Case in point, we went through a layoff last year at my previous company and I was ordered to layoff one of my best people. I gave them alternatives to layoff someone who had twice the salary and half the skill. Yet, they came back with a response that they had to eliminate someone in our office, regardless of the consequences to the business.

  4. Doesn't Matter on the 31st July

    The funny thing about this hypothetical is that none of the choices really matter. Unless you are interested in being a martyr, you might as well just tell your co-worker that he or you could be let go and that you enjoyed working with him. Making sure you have a personal backup of all of the relevant code you have been working on in case you get locked out of the system tomorrow would be a better option.

    The fact that someone is about to become a dad is totally irrelevant to if that person should get let go or not. In fact, the knowledge that someone is about to become a dad could be used against that developer if the employer thinks that person will not be able to work overtime as frequently, assuming the company expects that developers should always be working overtime.

    How good a developer is, also doesn’t really matter. Letting go of a really good developer is necessary if the role they play in the company is a role that the company can afford to eliminate.

    Trying to persuade upper management to respond any differently than you are expecting them to respond seems a bit pointless too, because it is unlikely that management shares the same perspective as you.

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