Is there a difference to be laid off or fired?

Sacked. Let go. Laid off. Fired. Let go. It can be a confusing and frustrating situation, not to mention downright disturbing, no matter what words you use to explain losing your job.

They are not synonyms, although the words surrounding unemployment are sometimes used interchangeably. You do not think that the language is all that relevant because the end result is the same: you’re still out of work. But the truth is, it can have a huge effect on your finances as well as your potential work quest for the difference between being laid off and being fired.

Here’s one thing you’ll need to understand to help you get through it if you’re having trouble managing this turbulent and sometimes painful life event: Were you really laid off or fired? It happens when you’re laid off from a job because of situations that are out of your control.

Generally, when a corporation has to cut expenses, layoffs occur, but there may be other factors for reducing jobs. The main part of “laid off” is that you have lost your job because of the results of the organization, not your individual performance.

When you’re fired, though, it’s typically due to your results. You may have violated a regulation (or several rules). Or, even after being qualified and given several chances to develop, you have failed to fulfill your assigned duties. Whatever the cause, as a direct result of your actions, you have lost your work.

Next is termination. Although not as usual, in the case of at-will jobs, termination occurs. An at-will worker, with or without justification, may be dismissed from a job at any time. This means that if your boss wants to get rid of you in order to give his cousin your job, it’s absolutely legal. However, for improper reasons, including becoming pregnant, an at-will employee can not be dismissed.

Although firings normally occur unexpectedly and without warning, you probably have 30 days of written notice when you’re laid off that company layoffs are happening. You should engage in an exit interview on the last day of employment in either case.

Bear in mind that exit interviews are not obligatory, generally speaking. And, while it is understandable that you do not want to take part in an exit interview if you’re fired, it’s a good idea to do it anyway.

And if you get hurt by a layoff, curb the temptation during the interview to badmouth your former boss. By showing resentment, you will not support your search for a new career. Instead, be prepared to provide the layoff with an objective and rational explanation, keeping any negative feelings at bay.

You should be upfront and take responsibility if you have been fired, and then clarify what measures you have taken to ensure that the error will not happen again. There are, however, some things that you can never tell an employer (such as, “I had trouble getting along with my boss and we frequently argued”). This would make it sound like you have an ongoing problem with your attitude.

So, in terms of what you share and how you justify yourself, you need to be strategic! In general, you want to stop sounding like you have a chronic issue of attitude, or simply, an attitude problem. You also want to avoid sounding like there has been a pattern several times with the same error/issue. Because this would make employers concerned and not want to hire you.

Even if you weren’t, you might theoretically tell an employer you were laid off, but it comes with huge risks and downsides. Most employers would be considered unethical to do this, since the word “fired” means something very different from “laid off.” If you try to say you were laid off when it is not true, during a background check, an employer might discover this lie. Honesty is, in my view, the best policy.

Losing your job can be shocking, frustrating, and frightening and you can go through a variety of feelings after a layoff or termination. This is usual and, though, you CAN bounce back! Millions of employers are out there and a fresh position can be sought. Focus on preparing clear explanations about what happened when the interviewer asks about it, and getting a plan on what to say.

Check out my related post: How to do better at a job interview?


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