Fired. Laid Off. Let Go. What’s the Difference? |

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I had experience yesterday where someone misspoke about whether they were laid off are let go. This led this video were a defined the difference between fired, laid off and let go. After all, if you mistakenly describe your circumstances, you may inadvertently mislead employer and give them the idea that you are lying to you.

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The question for today's sparked by a conversation I had with someone who I was coaching yesterday and the short version is he was talking about being laid off. He had been "let go."
It provokes the question, "what's the difference?"
The difference is in the perception of the listener. Like, if I said, "you were fired," well, fired basically means there's a performance issue. There's a behavioral issue. They had spoken with you about it a number of times (one is a number of times in my book) and it repeated itself and you got fired. Performance issue becomes the basis.
Laid off. You're one of a number of people who are affected. As a result, they marched each of you individually or in one collective group. HR was there. Your manager was there. Someone, maybe from an outplacement firm, was there. They announced that all of you were laid off effective, such and such date. Laid off.
Let go was subtle. It could be just you but it's not a performance issue. It's a business issue. So, for example, you're in a situation where your firm loses a contract and they realize that they can't afford to keep you so you get brought into that conference room or you sit down with your manager and they say something to the effect that, "you know, we lost the Dalton contract (just to make up a story) and as a result, we don't have the business to keep you around. We're going to let you go."
No,w obviously, it's not a performance issue like being fired. It's not "laid off" because you're not one of many people. Business, like in a layoff, has suffered but you're the one who's chosen because you may have been working on this contract. So there's a difference in how you've languaged things.
You need to be careful because if you misspeak and refer to it the wrong way, number one, if you were fired and described yourself as "let go," sometimes, employers are going to think you lied to them if you can't back it up in a reference.
If you were actually laid off as part of a group, that's not so bad. You know, economic times may have dictated that. They may have lost a large amount of business and the result winds up being you and many others were laid off and again, let go was, you know, we lost a small amount of business it's not a performance issue, but we can't afford to keep you so.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1300 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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1 Response
  1. Robert Jett

    well here is my story, was at my job had no exp owner said she liked me and felt i would fit in great and they would train. from day 1 the owners husband did not like me he was very hard on me calling me names and so on. last friday nothing out the norm. i went to get my check from the owner,she asked if she could speak to me. she starts off by saying Robert these last few weeks you dont seem happy here no more, i told her i loved my job i loved being there just felt sometimes it seem like Pete her husband didnt want me there. she then tells me that he has been on her for weeks about letting me go and that she fought for me telling him hes still learning and getting better. she then says but my hands are tied maybe this aint for you idk but and i really dont want to do this and im really sorry but i have to let u go.then tells me if i need a ref. have them call her she has nothing but good things to say, i mean ill be honest i was shocked didnt see that coming. so for the last week it just feels like i was fired lol i mean she was very clear her husband didnt want me there no more and they had to let me go but what did i do? i feel like im not good enough its crazy so was i fired or let go im confused.

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