All Things oDesk
July 8, 2009 by James Waters

layoffWith US unemployment hitting almost 10% this month, the number of awkward, jarring, painful, surprising and horrific layoff moments at work have hit an all time high. These are the moments in corporate relationships of high emotional tension and dark humor. I saw this phenomenon firsthand; at the end of a spring internship, one of my friends stuck a "hire me" sign on his back (an homage of sorts to a "kick me" sign). He walked around all day pretending to be oblivious to it, provoking laughter wherever he went. It was gallows humor; after six months his run was ending without an offer to stay full-time. I scoured the web to see just how awkward it can get...

Sequoia's Mystery Scrooge

When you care enough to send the very worst...

"Which startup laid off some folks recently, but had planned to make much deeper cuts? They went as far as having their outsourced HR firm send out final paperwork and checks to a number of employees — and then changed their mind. The CEO was so spacey he wasn't sure who got sent the paperwork. So he sent an email out to the entire company saying, "Please ignore any package and letter you might get from our HR firm - you're not fired." Ouch.

Squidoo's Layoff Queen

I can't imagine she was that professional before the lay off...

"I yelled, I ranted and raved, I threw my badge across the office, and I cried. Then I began to beg, much to my chagrin and humiliation. I said I would take a demotion or admin work, anything to keep my job. After about a half hour of enduring what has to be the worst layoff in my entire life, I was 'escorted' back to my office to collect my things and then out the door, in front everyone. I was so angry that I wanted to get revenge on everyone in that company, and I am not a violent person."

Forbes' Brotherly Love

Because laughter is the best revenge...

"The announcement, made late Tuesday by Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes, came amidst a new wave of layoffs at the magazine and caught few observers by surprise. The company in recent years has sold off assets ranging from its south seas island, a helicopter from the company yacht, Faberge eggs, a Colorado cattle ranch, toy soldiers, a palace in Morocco and historical documents including Lincoln’s final address as President. The Forbes building itself, at 60 Fifth Avenue, was put on the market in 2007.

Yesterday’s announcement squelched rumors the company has nothing left to sell.

“Pop always told us,” said Mr. Forbes, referring to his late father, legendary publisher Malcolm Forbes, “that people are our greatest asset. Now the time has come to prove him right by monetizing one of my three brothers.”  Exactly which brother would be sold was not immediately clear."

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Snowball.com's Freezeout

A leaky situation at snowball...

"Here's how the layoffs began," recalled one former employee of Snowball.com. "The human resources director sends a list of the people that are to be canned within the next few weeks to the CEO. All e-mails to the CEO first go through his personal assistant. The personal assistant's name happens to be on the list of layoffs (a small, yet crucial fact that the HR director happened to overlook). The assistant starts e-mailing the other people on the list, letting them know of their impending doom.

Listen.com's Deaf Ear

He's happy to listen, he just will never pay you again and please leave... but really we are all in this together...

...The final insult came later, as the newly laid-off Listen.com staffers congregated at a bar next door. The company's CFO and CEO joined the crowd and tried to commiserate with the workers they had just laid off.

"It was the most tone-deaf move I've ever experienced. At the very least, they should have left an open tab and walked out."

Tribune's Layoff Voicemail

Fired by the answering machine.

"March 11, 2008: I came home to find a message on my answering machine: "Hello S—-, this is Wanda from —-—- Outplacement Services. We've been hired by the Tribune to help with your job search. Please call us to schedule a time to take advantage of our outplacement services—no cost to you, the Tribune compensates us. We have classroom openings for next week, so we need to hear from you as soon as possible".

Hedge Fund's G-Chat Liquidation

What a G-chat gut shot...

"The hedge fund started liquidating its accounts and the woman who got me from the temp agency turned in her notice, but I still had hope that maybe, just maybe, I could fill that job during the final months of the company, get health insurance and not pinch pennies anymore.

They started interviewing hot, blonde temps for the job instead. By the way, I have dark hair. And that's when I learned of my demise in a Gmail chat window. One of the assistants led me to her desk to sign my time sheet. As she signed it, my eyes fled to her computer, where I saw these words in the little Gchat box: "Let's use one of these girls to replace Kristie."

One week later, I got a call from the temp agency say that I just worked my last day there and that the company couldn't afford me anymore. Yeah, but they can still afford to hire hot blondes and company-wide bagels on Fridays, right?"

The Fire Alarm Laid Us Off

This can't be legal...

fireA large office campus was evacuated when the fire alarm rang. Hundreds of employees poured out of the multi-building complex. The employees gathered in groups in their assigned area waiting for the signal to return to work, just like every other fire drill. The employee in charge of the drill began to deliver the following message over a loudspeaker:

'Due to the ongoing recession and bad business climate, the company is laying off 50% of its staff. So when the announcement finishes I ask all of you to move back to the building. If your employee card does not give you access to the building , it means you have been laid off and will not be allowed inside the building. All of your belongings will be sent to you. The company is using this innovative approach because we do not want to clog our email system with layoff notices and farewell messages. We also wish to avoid any fighting inside the office and the security issues for all staff. We hope you had a rewarding career with us… now please move back to the building and good luck.'

  • http://www.odesk.com Tamara

    The fire alarm one has to be the best.

    I took a six month medical leave to fight breast cancer. When I was well after chemo, I told the company I was ready to come back to work.

    They waited 24 hours and then CALLED to tell me I was laid off.

    I cried for days, but seriously ... like I really *wanted* to work for the CEO who thought Christmas ornaments emblazoned with the company logo was a good stand-in for a Christmas bonus in 2004.