Nothing is more disheartening than when you get laid off from your job. A rush of emotions, both warranted and unnecessary, floods the brain, draining serotonin and the desire to continue through labor-based acquisitions. You may feel as if you are no longer worthy of working in your field or industry. If a company can let you go without doing anything wrong, then why would another company want to employ you?
There’s a notable amount of ego death related to being let go of a job. You weren’t important enough to keep through business hardships (or so it may seem). It’s like a heartbreak, bitter and quick, best left unsaid and untethered to expedite the healing process.
Then, like a bit of emotional whiplash, the company reaches back out to you and offers you your job back. And, like the sweet nothings of a relationship rekindling, you start to think of the idea. Should you return to the job that laid you off? Should you take them back?
There are thousands of songs and movies about longing for an ex-relationship, but there are none about the emotional puzzle of longing for an ex-job.
What is the answer? What should you do?
- A Unique Scenario Calls for Unique Solutions
- Why Were You Laid Off?
- How Long Were You Laid Off?
- What Are the Conditions?
- If You Decide to Return…
A Unique Scenario Calls for Unique Solutions
We will start with a wonderful excerpt (if I do say so myself) from our recent article, I Got Laid Off – What to Do Next:
In 2022, over 964 tech companies laid off over 149,876 workers globally. Though the numbers may seem skewed, surrounding an industry with millions of workers and thousands of companies, the significance is as crucial as you could possibly imagine. So critical, in fact, that WRAL Tech Wire has created an entire list for ‘Layoff Watch’ this year.
Like a match left blazing near a puddle of gasoline, the flame began to spread onward. Tech companies began cutting employees drastically due to others. Others imitated others because others were imitating others. This concept of social contagion (doing something because your peers are) began to mark the tech world with a plethora of firings. It has been mass hysteria.
This social contagion of cutting workforces began moving to other industries. In fact, we already see other companies following the tech industry. Investment bank Barclay’s laid off about 200 employees, AMC Networks plans to lay off 20% of its staff. The Washington Post has even discontinued print magazines and laid off a few workers.
Simply put: layoffs are becoming a fad. Seriously.
What’s Your Point?
Getting laid off is no longer a rarity. As companies begin latching on to the new fad, multiple layoffs will continue to plague the workforce. All industries are at risk of seeing significant downsizing, causing many to be left without employment.
Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer noted, “Companies sometimes lay off people that they have just recruited – oftentimes with paid recruitment bonuses. When the economy turns back in the next 12, 14, or 18 months, they will go back to the market and compete with the same companies to hire talent. They are basically buying labor at a high price and selling low. Not the best decision.”
The point is: it’s very possible you have been laid off due to a hazy and uncertain market or the following of an unnecessary trend. In this case, you are likely to see jobs reforming at the company once they realize the mistake they made. If you were a good worker, you may be offered your old position back.
If you are not directly facing the question of being rehired by the job that laid you off, you might be in the near future.
Why Were You Laid Off?
Deciding whether or not you should return to a company that laid you off begins with why you were let go in the first place. At the end of the day, every situation is unique and specific. It would be impossible to sway your decision drastically without more information about the relationship and company.
For example, if you were laid off from a company due to a negative situation (regardless of if it was you or the company at blame), you may want to avoid returning to them. There is no promise that things will change or result in a more positive experience. Why put yourself in the same situation?
If you were laid off from a company and you didn’t enjoy your job or see a true future there, why return? It’s the same concept as the aforementioned. Why would you believe things would be different?
There are two generic situations in which returning to the former company may be a feasible option. They happen to be the most common, too.
Company or Position?
Firstly, if you were laid off due to company downsizing, loss of funds, or your position was dissolved, you may have grounds for a solid and reasonable return.
Consequently, this isn’t to say that if you were let go for these reasons, you should immediately return when called upon. Moreso, we are stating that a smooth and operational return is possible within this situation. If any of the above reasons were the catalyst for your departure, your working relationship with the company should be copacetic enough to return without a bumpy road. It may have just been a temporary break between the two parties due to outside business circumstances.
If you were laid off for one of the above reasons but it didn’t go over smoothly, you may want to think about if returning would magically fix the burned bridges.
If you were laid off due to poor performance on your end, returning could be an opportunity to reholster your future career. You have been offered another opportunity at the company, and you should seriously consider taking it. Not only can you prove to the company that you have fixed your mistakes, but you can continue to build a promising resume for future opportunities.
If you were laid off due to poor performance and the situation went negatively, you may not want to rejoin the team. If they handled it incorrectly then, what’s stopping them from doing it in the future?
When you are the one attempting to regain a job, you should take the time to reach out to your former supervisor (even if just an email). Let them know how you have worked to improve your negatives and how you will avoid them going forward. If you were laid off due to poor performance, why would the company want to take you back? You need to find a way to prove or convince them you are worth another look.
How Long Were You Laid Off?
Another factor that should hinder your decision is the amount of time in which you were laid off from the company. Neither long nor short are inherently negative, but there are multiple differences between the two that you should consider.
If you were laid off only a short time ago:
Consider all of the things you didn’t like about the job and the people you worked with. Chances are, things have not changed. Though you may be quick to retake the gig, think of the job as a whole. Has it been long enough to process your true feelings about the job? Are people or policies you didn’t like still there?
Furthermore, it’s important to find out why the quick turnaround. It’s a bit strange to lay off an employee (or employees) and then quickly rehire them. What was the change? Why switch positions on the matter?
Once again, this depends entirely on the specific situation. A higher-up could have made the decision and then quit, leaving the new higher-up to rescind the layoffs. Or, a company could have been bought by another, giving them the funds to keep the department they downsized.
Regardless, it’s important to ask why the quick turnaround. If it was due to a change of minds, beware. You don’t want to commit to a company that is willing to bounce you back and forth between employment.
If you were laid off a long time ago:
Consider all of the things you liked and disliked about the old job. Are your favorite employees and supervisors still on the team? Has new ownership jumped in? Will it be the same job you used to love?
After a long enough period, returning to your old job may not even be considered returning to your old job. The landscape may have been completely reformed. There may be an entirely new team and entirely new policies. The company culture may have shifted, leaving ideals you aligned with behind.
If it has been a significant amount of time, remember that you may need to consider it a new job. Interview and ask questions as if you haven’t worked there before. If you know any employees still onboard, reach out to them with any questions considering the company (if legally allowed).
You could find yourself in an entirely new situation or the exact one before, for better or for worse, depending on your experience.
Are You Making the Choice to Reapply?
Reapplying to a job you were laid off from is a tricky situation. Ultimately, it could be an entirely different article on its own.
It’s important to remember two things: Why were you laid off? What have you done to make yourself more appealing as an employee?
Let’s say you were laid off due to a downsizing of the department. Why should the company rehire you? Have you improved your skills or experience enough to bunnyhop the wall of financial restraint? Have you made yourself worthy of looking away from the decision to downsize? In this case, update your application and resume accordingly.
If you were laid off due to performance, how can you prove that you have improved as a worker? If you haven’t worked at a new job since the layoff, it may be difficult to prove that you have changed. You may need to speak to the supervisor directly (as we previously noted) or move on entirely.
At the end of the day, you have obviously decided to reapply. You have already decided you want to work for the company that laid you off.
Are You Working as a Contractor?
In his interview with Stanford, Pfeffer went on to note the use of former employees as contractors after layoffs. He stated, “Layoffs often do not cut costs, as there are many instances of laid-off employees being hired back as contractors, with companies paying the contracting firm. Layoffs often do not increase stock prices, in part because layoffs can signal that a company is having difficulty. Layoffs do not increase productivity.”
Companies tend to rehire former employees as temporary workers before they decide the layoff was a mistake. If you are currently in this situation (working as a freelancer for your former company) and have been offered your full-time position back, it’s important to remain skeptical about your future.
What can guarantee you that the company won’t do it again? What bolsters your job safety?
Ultimately, you still have an inside track at the company. You are still technically working for them. You can use your best judgment to see if things are trending positively. If you feel as if the company is still in a state of flux, consider staying as a freelancer while you look for other jobs.
Fool me once. Right?
If you feel the company realizes its mistake in firing you and is working to fix things, consider taking the job back.
What Are the Conditions?
As of November 2022, over 6 million U.S. citizens are unemployed.
Before rejoining your old employer, you want to make sure the market is sturdy enough for reinvestment. Ultimately, we continue to state the same concept throughout this article. When deciding to go back to a job that laid you off, you want to make sure that you can be guaranteed job security. You don’t want to rejoin a company just to be let go three months later.
Take the time to research the market in which the company resides. If you were let go due to budget cuts, see how the company is currently doing. Is the specific industry still on a downward spiral?
For example, the tech industry is currently having unprecedented layoffs (as we previously noted). If you are offered a job back in the tech industry, you may want to ask about job security. How can you be promised a job if things continue to wave in and out of layoff contagion?
If things still seem murky and your gut tells you to avoid the industry, you may want to search for new opportunities.
If You Decide to Return…
So, you have decided to return to the company that laid you off. Consequently, there is nothing wrong with the decision. As long as you have thought it through and looked at your options, you can be sure that you are making the best choice for your future as a professional and a denizen.
Once you have made your final decision, there are a few key things to remember. Reentering the workplace can already be a strange and awkward situation. Don’t make it worse on yourself.
Never Hold Grudges
Your unemployment stint was a break from the company and its employees. Treat it as such. Try to avoid reentering the job with the same stigma and grudges that you held before. Treat the situation like a fresh start.
If you are upset at certain supervisors for gunning the layoff, let it go. The situation has already happened and it may have been out of their control. You have been brought back, so you were obviously worthy enough of looking twice at. There is no need to keep these grudges strong.
If you were mad at fellow employees for keeping their jobs while yours was cut, let it go. It may not have been their fault. Regardless, everyone is attempting to save their own skin and career in such trying times.
Take a deep breath and let any past animosity go. It’s time to treat this like a refresh and build for a brighter future, work relationships included.
Banking off of the former tip, reach out to your former work relationships. Attempt to rebuild them or rekindle them.
If the majority of the employees weren’t there when you were, find the ones that were. Ask them about what’s going on and get a sense of the new workplace culture. If you have been gone long enough, you may be entirely out of the team loop. Your former contacts are the ones to ask. Policies and workplace processes may have been altered.
Furthermore, take the time to get to know your new teammates as if you are new to the job. It may be intimidating for them to have a former employee return. It may cause them to question their job security as new employees. Introduce yourself to them and start new relationships.
Never speak of why or how you were laid off, though. It’s unnecessary to talk badly about the company you are employed by, even if things were difficult before.
Create New Goals
It’s easy to fall back into the old routine of your former job. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to burnout as if you never left.
As we stated, treat this whole situation like a refresh. Think of reentering as the same as getting a new job. Create new goals and gun for new skills and opportunities. The company obviously likes you enough to bring you back, so consider ways in which you can move up into higher positions.
Consider trying new routines or processes. Think of ways you can improve the work you had previously done. How can you build for a better future with the opportunity you were given again?
Not everyone gets lucky enough to receive a second chance. Try to make the most of it.
Why were you laid off? Why weren’t you important enough to keep during the downsizing?
Was your performance that bad? Why did you fall into those bad work habits?
When we say to treat the layoff like a refresh, we don’t mean to completely negate the past. It’s important to reevaluate the entirety of the situation at hand. Though it may be hard to swallow, every layoff goes two ways.
Though it may be entirely the business’ fault for deciding to cut the entire team, you were not in an important enough position to be kept around. Why not? Is it a lack of motivation or a situation that you could not handle? Is it a lack of love for the job or an outside force keeping you from climbing the ladder?
Regardless of whose fault it was, getting laid off should call for a period of reflection. Something went wrong and now is the time to analyze it. If you were unhappy or unmotivated, you don’t want to reenter the job and quickly return to the same scenarios. You need to find out why it was happening in the first place.
Should you return to a job that laid you off? It truly depends. Unfortunately, we can’t give you a solid answer.
If you feel that you still want to be at the company and you are given the opportunity, there’s no reason to not rejoin. It comes down to whether or not the company reaches your values. Does it give you the fulfillment you need? Does it give you enough job security to feel comfortable rejoining?
If you feel as if the company didn’t handle the layoff well, then you need to consider if you are just rejoining for the paycheck. Are you really going to be happy returning to the same job? Are there better opportunities for you elsewhere?
Overall, it’s not unheard of for an employee to return to a former job. It all depends on the relationship between the employee and the employer and whether a bridge can be reformed.