Sunday, July 19, 2009

You Really Think They Will Re-Hire You?

Charmingly naive blogs about dealing with unemployment after a layoff, such as the delightful "Lords and Ladies of Leisure", often express then hopelessly positive attitude so well documented in Barabar Ehrenriech's "Bait and Switch" ... that there's another job coming, if you just put in your time looking for it.

Too often they think maybe the same company will hire them back.

Well, it could happen. After all, you were laid off because there was a shortage of work at your company and you haven't been hired elsewhere because there's a shortage of work in the entire industry. You reason that surely when the economy picks up, your company will need someone like you again, and who better than the proven succes: you!

Or perhaps you're thinking that they made a mistake when they let you go; soon they will recongize that mistake and bring you back!

Forget it. Buy a lottery ticket instead. I'm not saying people never rehire the ones they laid off, but it's damn rare.

I've seen both sides of the fence. When I was with Coleco, we went through an extended cycle of hiring, laying off, and then discoveing that management had screwed up and we needed more help. There were times when I was consulted as to rehiring staff that had been laid off; coupling that to my more recent experience with being laid off leads to a few thoughts you may apply to your own situation:
  • You were laid off because you were less valuable to the company than every other person that they kept.
  • If company politics had anything to do with your layoff ... you lost. Or your boss lost, and throwing you overboard was distasteful but necessary. Do you think your boss wants you back as a reminder?
  • You know something in your gut that every person still working there does not know: those bastards will let you go when they screw up. Do you really think they want your former co-workers to learn that?
  • Survivor's guilt is real. Your application for your old job, or anything in your old position, is full of negative emotion for the HR department.
  • They had to make a case to let you go, and it's now in your HR file If a new HR person looks at your file, they'll see a long list of reasons why they're better off without you. Why would they take the chance?
  • There is a natural suspicion among HR types that if you want to go back to a company that laid you off, you haven't succeeded in finding something elsewhere and that, therefore, they don't want you either.
  • There are some companies that have a cycle of boom-and-bust, hiring and firing and re-hiring (....remember Boeing?) If that's the business you're in, perhaps none of the above will apply to you, but you need to consider whether this cycle is good for you.
  • Business managers are not built to recognize their mistakes. Why should they, if they can cover them up by blaming someone else? They may well have figured out that letting you go was an error, but admitting it endangers their own career. It's much safer to insist that their decision was the correct one, and to hire someone else.
  • Never make the mistake of thinking that management's priority is the health of their company or organization. You were not laid off to save the company; you were laid off to save your manager, plus whoever higher up in your manager's chain of command made the screw-up that lead your company to needing layoffs. Never expect them to admit this, since it would be cutting their own throats.
  • The architects of America's greatest strategic blunder, the Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld invasion of Iraq, retired wealthy and secure by means of simply denying they ever made a mistake. How can you hope to compete with a management model like that?

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