I Wish I'd Handled My Layoff Differently

From teary meltdowns to shrinking violets, layoff reactions to regret.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

Jan. 14, 2010 — -- Deborah, a content strategist from Boston, wishes she'd had a different reaction when her boss told her she was being laid off late in 2008.

"I wept," said Deborah, who didn't want her last name mentioned. "Not uncontrollable sobbing, but tears streaming."

The fact that she didn't accept the news "with poise and dignity" still makes her cringe a little today.

"Instead I had to take advantage of the strategically placed box of tissues and ask for a few extra minutes to 'pull myself together,'" said Deborah, who'd been with the company more than a decade and was completely blindsided when she was let go. "And of course, when I returned to my desk and shared the news, the tears kicked in again. For the next 30 minutes or so, I really was inconsolable."

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While some are content with how they handled their layoffs, others wish they had dealt with the moment differently. Some say they regret wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Others wish they had given the manager delivering the news a piece of their minds instead of just nodding compliantly. And some wish they could take back the fact that they stormed out of HR's office and slammed the door.

Granted, it's no easy feat to learn that you're being thrown under an 18-wheeler. But in a business setting, some reactions will serve you better than others.

"In a perfect world, you remain professional and you smile," said Julie Jansen, management consultant and author of "I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work."

"It's not good to lose your composure or to be emotional because for the person that fired you, that will be their final memory," Jansen said. "And you never know when you might meet them again."

But what if you left your poker face on the bus (or under it) that day and wind up weeping into the HR director's hankie? What if you raise your voice and kick over a chair or two on your way back to your desk?

Those suffering from crier's remorse can still save face, Jansen said.

"It's OK to go back and say, 'I recognize that I was very emotional earlier -- I hope I didn't cause you too much discomfort," she explained.

No need to flat-out apologize, Jansen said. Simply let the person know you realize they're having a brutal day too. (Believe it or not, no one enjoys having to tell someone to pack up their desk.)