How To Engineer Your Layoff Review

Are you unhappy at your job? Have you considered switching industries in a year or two? Do you think you’ll be laid off in the near future?

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(Click Image for Link to Book)

If so, you absolutely need to read How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye by Sam Dogen @ Financial Samurai. If there’s anything I want you to take away from this book review it’s the following facts:

  • You don’t have to intentionally do a bad job;
  • You can retain your reputation for doing quality work;
  • If you’re considering leaving your job in the next few years, get your ducks in a row right now;
  • Executing this process successfully means tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain why I highly recommend this book:

 

Here’s a quick summary of the steps you need to take before deciding to get yourself laid off.

How do you engineer your own layoff?

  1. Make sure that leaving your current job is the right decision.
  2. Read, re-read, and study the book.
  3. Build relationships with key individuals at your employer.
  4. Strategically position yourself that encourages your boss to let you go.
  5. Consider unorthodox inception strategies from the book.

 Why Do Bad Employees Get Rewarded
For Doing Bad Work?

When I used to work in Biglaw, my friends and I used to joke about getting ourselves laid off. We’d heard stories that if you get laid off, the firm would let you know months in advance so that you would get paid your big salary while looking for your next job. It was a great deal–it was like being rewarded for doing bad work. Many of us joked that we’d start doing a bad job so we’d get laid off.

Related: Hating Your Job

However, when the time came for us to move on, nearly all of us quit instead of getting ourselves laid off. Now there’s nothing wrong with quitting–in fact that’s what I ended up doing. But you are leaving a lot of money on the table. I mean, think about it. Biglaw is willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in salary for an underperforming associate to continue to be employed while they’re presumably looking for their next job.

In reality, none of us were willing to do this because we were all Type-A hard working employees who cared more about our reputations than getting the free ride. Certainly there were exceptions, like the senior associate who I now realize was intentionally unresponsive to e-mails and did a terrible job managing projects. (He left the firm about a year later to transition to some cushy lifestyle job.) But for the most part, associates left the Biglaw by quitting.

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The Right Way To Get Laid Off From Your Job

What if I told you there was a way to get yourself laid off without hurting your reputation? What if there was a way to engineer your own layoff so that both you and your employer are happy with the result? I never even thought this was possible until I came across How to Engineer Your Layoff a couple years ago when I was about to quit my high paying job at a Biglaw firm.

  • First of all, it’s important to remember that your employer is a business that can fire you at any time. A lot of law firm associates don’t understand this because they don’t understand law firm economics. For whatever reason, if your employer wants to get rid of you, they will move ahead with terminating you. This is no different than any other business. When I clerked for a federal judge, I reviewed tons of employment discrimination cases. I quickly realized that business-savvy employers always found ways to create a record of poor job performance so that they have to option of firing you without being liable for breaking the law.
  • Second, for some employers (and Biglaw in particular) attrition is part of the business model. They expect employees to eventually quit themselves. That’s why you see the big NYC firms hire over a hundred first-year associates when they expect to make only 5 of them partner. They know most of the remaining 95 associates will leave on their own. You see the same pattern for jobs in many other industries. Management consulting companies and investment banks also hire large classes of junior employees, of which only a few make it to director level.

Now that we’ve established that engineering your own layoff is consistent with your employer’s business plan, how do you go about doing it? Or specifically, how do you do it without intentionally being a bad employee and hurting your own reputation?

 

Ideas You May Have Never Considered Before

That’s where How To Engineer Your Layoff comes in. The book provides you with possibilities you may not have considered before. Obviously your own situation is unique so you have to plan around your specific scenario. But some things I didn’t realize before were:

  • Human Resources is your ally. Human Resources has a bigger influence on your separation than you probably thought. For example, they know the full range of what’s possible or acceptable when it comes to severance packages. They have an incentive to keep that severance package as small as possible so this information is never shared with employees. HR also knows about future management plans, such as when future layoffs may occur. If they like you, they may even advocate for you to management, which means you’ll end up with a better severance package. The book describes actionable steps you can take to make sure you have a strong relationship with your HR.
  • A good relationship with your boss is important. Perhaps your employer wants to get rid of you already but your manager doesn’t know how. Maybe you have mixed reviews, or maybe they prefer to promote one of your colleagues who is doing a better job than you. They don’t necessarily dislike you, nor do they think you’re doing a bad job. But for whatever reason, your boss wants to terminate you but doesn’t know how. Or maybe she’s afraid to. Now, I know I said earlier that if an employer wants to get rid of you, they will do so no matter what. But they also don’t want to face a lawsuit–even if it’s meritless.  And even if the lawsuit gets thrown out, they don’t want bad PR. That’s why it is always in your boss’ interest to make sure you’re happy with your severance package. The book lays out a step-by-step plan to build a relationship with your boss so that both of you will be ready to have that sensitive conversation when the time comes.
  • Employing unorthodox inception strategies. Your employer, through its managers and HR, has its own biases and prejudices. There are ways for you to plant the seed of an idea in their minds that you need to go. For example, we all know that when you choose to take a sabbatical or time off, your employer will question your dedication to your job. They may be afraid of investing in you as an employee because you might quit your job or switch industries down the road. This belief will help convince management to get rid of you–even if you’re a stellar employee! A more controversial approach (which is especially effective if you’re a woman) is to talk to HR about starting a family. There’s a chance your employer will want to get rid of you while avoiding a discrimination lawsuit.  In that situation, a mutually acceptable severance package may make everyone happy.  The book has an entire chapter dedicated to how to implement these unorthodox strategies.

 

The Author Knows What He’s Talking About

One big reason why I went ahead and bought this book is because I found the author to be very credible. When I hear the words “engineer your own layoff” it seems like someone lazy and unmotivated would do. But Sam is a high achiever who used to work for Goldman Sachs. He was sufficiently disciplined and hard working that he lasted in the investment banking business for over a decade. As he made his way up the corporate ladder, he became a manager himself who was in charge of hiring and firing employees. Several years ago, Sam left his high paying job to start his own business (sound familiar?) which is a better fit for his personality.

Related: Competitive Advantage and Finding the Right Place

When it came to his own job separation, Sam employed the strategies in the book to help him gain an enormous severance package that included both a lump sum cash payment and a substantial amount of deferred compensation. These strategies have been successfully used by a wide range of people looking to leave their job. The book includes several case studies, including from those with Ivy-League credentials working in high-paying jobs.

 

Final Thoughts

Make sure leaving is right for you. The most important decision you have to make is whether you should leave your job. This is an intensely personal question that involves understanding what you want out of life. But it also involves having enough money saved up, clearing your student debt, and knowing what your future financial goals are. No book can answer these questions for you. Having said that, the book includes chapters discussing the process of deciding whether you should engineer your own layoff in the first place.  If wanting to quit is even remotely on your mind, you need to buy this book as early as possible.

Plan ahead. Many of the strategies in the book require over a year to execute. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t buy this book until just before I planned to leave Biglaw. You can’t build solid relationships with HR and your boss in half a year let alone a couple of months. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Even if you don’t plan to quit for a few years or even if you’re not sure if you hate your job, you should get this book as soon as you can. Hell, I’d even go as far as to say, even if you enjoy your job but see the possibility of being let go in the future–you should buy this book ASAP. The book isn’t cheap but if use the information in it, and you play your cards right during the separation process, you will get tens of thousands of dollars from your employer in return.

 

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I highly recommend How To Engineer Your Layoff for all corporate employees, but especially Biglaw associates. As a midlevel or senior associate, you’re a highly skilled and highly educated employee who has generated millions of dollars for your employer. When the time to move on to another job comes along, don’t you deserve a bigger piece of the economic pie?

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Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I receive compensation if you purchase the book.

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