Would you stay or leave this company?

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Apr 28

On the edge of the knife

“On the edge of the knife” Photo by Thomaniac

What follows is true. I’d really like to know what you would do and why.

A friend of mine has been with a Fortune 500 company for 15-years. Two months ago he, along with some in the group he managed, was laid off, but asked to stay on for three more months to finish work on some projects.

So the actual layoff day is a ways off, but still, the layoff causes the normal emotional impact–disloyalty from the company for all the years of work, no longer “worthy” as a person because the company shuns you and others. Good people, you know, take stuff personally and my friend is no different. Good people also come to realize that those emotions are the stages of grief and they work through them to move on.

Two days ago, because of more people leaving than anticipated from the layoff and people leaving the company voluntarily, he was told he was no longer laid off and had his old job back with two fewer people in his group to do the work. Relief, right?

Not so much.

The bulls-eye on the back

The company, casually or not, laid you off. And just as casually hired you back. How do you ever trust that the work you do is worthwhile? How do you re-engage with the company? How do you act with other managers and coworkers when you were laid off and now you are not?

You now live on the bubble

Since the company laid you off once, you know that your work and your group are on the knife edge of value to the company. Things get a little better overall and perhaps you are a bit safer. Things get a little worse and you know you are going to get laid off–because you already have been laid off.

What does that do to your stress? How to you make any plans for your future?

But there are advantages to staying

You might think to tell the company to pound sand and go find another job with a different company. Emotionally, it would be easy to do. But is it the right thing to do for your career?

Consider these advantages of staying:

  • There is an income. Not that you should live for the paycheck, but income in this economy is a good thing.
  • There is the devil you know. Every company has internal politics and being there for 15 years means you have the devil you know versus the devil you don’t in a different company.
  • You have a big internal business network. If you have a good work reputation, you can work with others in the company to move to someplace “safer” in the company.

But, then, there is still the bulls-eye on your back.

So tell me: would you stay? Or would you stay and look for another job and leave when you find one? And, why?

  • Just for clarification, were the terms the same as before?

    Not that it makes any difference. In my view the person should leave, if that's a financial option.

    If not, he could agree to stay while he cranks up his job search. Normally it's a good idea to be discreet about looking for a new job, but I'd go all out and damn the lifeboats.

  • What are the guarantees that after he finishes with the project, 3 month from now they won't lay him off again?
    What are the guarantees that it won't happen again next spring?
    I would look for another position ASAP as there is no way you can trust the company.
    Knowing the devil didn't help him at all. He was not able to avoid being laid off. So how is it an advantage?

  • The idea that your job is secure and will be there tomorrow is nothing more than an illusion. No matter how long you've worked there, something can always happen, and people should be prepared.

    That being said, the friend has work and it's obviously paying a decent amount. Also, there's no mention about what his work prospects are, and since good jobs aren't exactly plentiful, I'd be hesitant to give up an income you can be fairly sure will be there for the next two weeks. I say work it, but if something better (ie with a good contract and pay) comes up, take it.

  • Yes, Bill, same terms as before. No salary reduction or change in span; just the two fewer people in his group.

    I'm torn a bit between staying and leaving. If we make the assumption that there are no permanent jobs anymore, jumping to a different company compared to one he already knows just to get out of where he's at doesn't really buy him anything except a brand new company.

    Since it is a Fortune 500 company, though, it might be good to look for a different job in the company.

    Well, hey, that's why I asked. It is an intertwined question of strategy, tactics and emotions. And the decisions we make because of them. Thanks for leaving the comment; I really appreciate it.

  • HI Roland. Well, there are no guarantees — but there are no guarantees in any other job in any other company either. So it's not really a open and shut case, but more of a comparative advantage case of staying or leaving.

    I'd also content that you can't really trust any company as it relates to your employment, whether it is this company or a different one. All it takes is a change in direction or a new Senior VP and all bets on any job in a division is off.

    Good point on knowing the devil in this case didn't help him with a layoff. There are a few other “knowing the devil” aspects, though. He knows what areas of the company are strong and which are not so if he decides to look inside the company, he can look in the right places (Fortune 500 companies are big enough to do that). He also knows the cultural norms in the company and the relationships between other managers. All of that is useful compared to moving to a different company where he knows none of those things.

    But then, there is the bulls-eye on his back. It's a conundrum, for sure.

    Your questions are all good. None of us, I think, will have the right answers. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • Angie, this is the type of “comparative advantage” case analysis that reflects this situation. You have honed in on the specifics, too, so that's good. Are there other jobs out there? Are the other jobs out there relatively “safe” from a layoff? Can you find a safer job in the company since you are still employed there? Outside of the money, what other aspects of your job and company do you like and would you like the same things somewhere else?

    The days of having a relationship with a company outside of being employed by them is long gone. But we have not caught up with that yet and keep expecting the company to do well for us even though they have no incentive to do so (especially in this market).

    You've flipped this to his point of view and that is exactly the right perspective to start from.

  • Mike Korner says:

    Sadly, I saw this exact scenario happen once. The person I'm thinking of stayed on and initiated a job search with extreme motivation and focus. He resigned in less than 60 days.

    While some in the company didn't like it — unbelievable — it seemed like a wise move to me as he was clearly one of the chosen ones and he would likely be chosen again should new layoffs be needed.

    In general, I think “it depends” is the best answer though. The person's reality – age, salary, employable skills, health, wealth, and family situation – will weigh heavily. Also, though it is changing, companies still seem to prefer to hire employed people instead of unemployed people.

  • Very true, Mike, the person's reality is a big deal in terms of staying or leaving. That, I think, is the most important criteria to use when deciding to stay or leave.

  • Cary Thomson says:

    I'm leaning towards staying with the company but moving to another “safer” department. There may be that target on your back but shifting your circumstances should make it smaller.

    That said after fifteen years at the same company I'm wondering if your friend wants to try something new. It could be through a new company or something more out there such as a new career, going back to school or back packing for a year. I do know one person that traveled the world with his teenage kids after the end of a contract and they loved every minute of the trip.

    My last point is once he make his decision then he should resist the temptation to constantly look back or listen to any regretful self talk.

  • hollyB says:

    It’s been nearly a year since this thread started. What did your friend end up deciding? Was the outcome better or worse than your friend planned? I’m in nearly the exact situation. I have been laid off with a 8 month transition plan, but now I’m offered another position in a different department. I’m also interviewing and have a couple of good opportunities. I know … I’ll have to make this call on my own but was wondering how this story ended for your friend.

    • Holly — thanks for the follow-up! The answer is that my friend is in the exact same position he was when laid off and then had the layoff taken back. It appears the financial situation of the company is better, so layoffs are not as likely to happen. With no guarantees, of course.

      My two cents on your case is, if you like the work, take the position in the different department. Eight months looks like a long way out, but it will go by quicker than you think. Severance is nice, but ongoing continuity of income and benefits is more important than a one-time severance. By moving, you will know much more about the company, manager, culture, and team than you could ever know moving to a different company. Moving in the same company also allows you time to decompress from the layoff notice — there are emotions associated with all this that muddles the thinking. It gives you a chance to look at what you want to do with your career and see if the job fits into that or not.

      If you don’t like the work in the position in the different company, I’d look and move and not wait for the severance and the eight months. Use the time to find a job that fits into what you like to do, not just to take any position that is offered.

      Okay, so maybe that was a nickel’s worth…let me know how it works out!

    • Thepringlefamily says:

      What did you end up doing?  I’m in the same boat too.  Got a layoff notitce but now the company is talking retracting some of them.  I have a 37 week severence package and was actually looking for a little break and then moving on to something new.  Staying is tempting for the salary and benefits.  I’m praying a lot!

      • Ken Reyes says:

        As you are experiencing, it’s never a clear cut-and-dry answer; and the circumstance is different for everyone.   One of my coworkers searched (and found) a job as soon as she was notified back in Dec 10.  She has a teen entering college in the fall. Another colleague let his due date come up and took the bonus and severance package.  He is traveling in Hawaii before figuring things out – he is single.    For me, I figured back in March to start searching for a job and at the same time consider the internal offer.  I know that I was very fortunate and blessed.  I struck lightning in my job search and interviewed at 6 different companies.  I realize that some folks have been searching for months and years.  Plus,I was offered that internal position.  But in the end; I decided that it was time for a change and took a position at a new company.  I thought it was best for my career growth…I’m no spring chicken and would like to have experience and skills that are portable to any industry and any location.  My colleagues were a bit surprised that I didn’t stay.   You know, I thought about the salary and benefits if I stayed but it was the big picture that influenced my decision.  Plus, the new position was a little out of my comfort zone and it’s good to feel challenged like that.  Best of luck in your decision.

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