Offboarding in the Age of Mass Layoffs

Offboarding in the Age of Mass Layoffs

Read Time: 8 minutes Published: March 8, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • 85% of recently laid-off employees have attempted to sabotage their previous employer. 
  • 15% of tech managers have used ChatGPT to write a script or email to terminate employees.
  • 89% of laid-off respondents felt criticized in their exit interview.
  • Nearly one-third of recently laid-off professionals were let go via email.
  • One in 10 felt blindsided by their recent layoff.

All Offboard

If you or someone you know has ever been laid off, would a better offboarding have improved the situation? We surveyed 1,000 employees and 178 technology managers to find out how to make the most of this difficult situation. As we examined these predicaments from both sides, we discovered how to remain humane in an increasingly automated digital era.

Severing Ties

Many workers faced layoffs in the last year, especially those in the technology sector. Below, we’ll look at how workers were laid off, how they felt about it, and ways to mitigate the pain.

This infographic explores layoff delivery and offboarding experiences in the last year.

Losing a job is always difficult, especially if you were unaware that the termination was coming. Among our survey respondents, 1 in 10 felt blindsided by their layoff, with finance professionals being 86% more likely than tech workers to feel caught off guard.

This infographic explores how people were laid off based on industry.

Most of the time, companies laid-off employees in a virtual meeting, especially if they worked remotely. But in about a third of cases for those surveyed, layoffs were delivered by email. Digital marketing professionals were more likely to be laid off via email (50%) than in a virtual meeting (33%). On the other hand, virtual meetings were the most common method of laying off cryptocurrency professionals (47%).

Most of those who had been recently laid off reported a poor offboarding experience (85%), with on-site employees claiming a better experience than their remote colleagues. Managers of remote employees can improve the offboarding process for remote workers through civility and clear communication. Companies can also ease the transition by providing remote workers with job search assistance. This severance offering was 25% more likely to be provided to on-site employees than remote ones.  

A healthy severance package is another helpful addition to the offboarding process. Employers often provide this to demonstrate goodwill and retain competitiveness, even though it isn’t required by law.

This infographic explores severance package offerings from employees laid off in the last year.

After being laid off, 88% of workers reported receiving a severance package. Continued health insurance was the most common benefit offered, followed by a full rollover of employer-sponsored retirement funds. Most employees weren’t allowed the continued use of company discounts; only 10% of those surveyed claimed this rare benefit.

In addition to benefits, severance pay includes monetary compensation and might even be negotiable. Most respondents (58%) claimed one week’s pay for every year they worked at the company as severance. About a third received two weeks’ pay, while a small percentage (7%) got even more. The average financial compensation among laid-off respondents was $5,555.

Goodbye and Good Luck

In an exit interview, companies can get honest feedback on how to improve. It can be a valuable tool used to gain information and help an employee make a clean break. However, exit interviews can create further strain if poorly executed. 

This infographic explores offboarding procedures and emotions during exit interviews.

Of all offboarding processes, employee evaluations and formal knowledge transfers were performed most often, while exit interviews were only done 39% of the time.

Tech workers were 27% more likely than finance professionals to encounter an exit interview as part of the offboarding process. During these, 57% of workers surveyed said they felt attacked, adding insult to injury. However, cryptocurrency professionals were the least likely to say so. And although a whopping 89% felt criticized in their exit interviews, finance employees were the least likely to feel this way.

Conducting exit interviews is a delicate matter. Because a layoff is already a stressful situation, managers should take these conversations seriously and plan ahead.

It’s Sabotage

Companies facing layoffs would be right to worry about disgruntled former workers seeking revenge. Is it worth the feeling of closure to strike out on social media or otherwise damage a previous employer’s reputation? We asked respondents to be honest about their acts of retribution and whether they faced repercussions.

This infographic explores acts of retaliation after being laid off.

As we’ve stated, a good exit interview can make for a clean break and opportunities for improvement, but a bad offboarding can lead to more than just unhappy ex-employees. Instead of expressing negative feelings safely and appropriately, many have resorted to other means to have their say. A staggering 85% of laid-off workers have attempted to sabotage their previous employer. Remote workers were the biggest culprits; they were 47% more likely than on-site workers to attempt an act of retribution.

The No. 1 act of sabotage was posting inappropriate content on the company’s social media. Following that was a more targeted approach: sending unseemly or damaging emails to existing clients. Stealing company assets, damaging property, and disrupting business operations rounded out the top five most likely attacks by recently fired employees.

Despite the likelihood of being caught and facing repercussions (which happened 78% of the time), many of those who were laid off found solace in their sabotage. This doesn’t necessarily mean legal action was taken; often, this could mean a stern conversation or withholding a recommendation.

About half of the employees who reported a smooth offboarding process saw no need for vengeance against their previous employer. Similarly, those who were laid off in person were the least likely to sabotage their former workplace, with 25% not attempting anything of the sort. 

A clean break like this is important because employees who have recently been let go often still have access to their business email and computer accounts (44%) and social media accounts (43%). For this and other reasons, acts of sabotage can have huge repercussions for all involved, but they’re less likely to happen when a company engages in proper offboarding.

Technology Breakdown

Tech layoffs have been making headlines lately, with giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon reducing staff throughout the past year. We asked tech workers about their experiences with being let go and what they did next.

This infographic explores highlights from laid-off employees working in tech.

With tech workers facing the brunt of layoffs last year, the landscape has changed, and workers’ thoughts have followed suit. More than half of the workers we polled were tech industry professionals. Of them, 88% said working in Big Tech has lost its luster after seeing or experiencing the mass layoffs. Although only a small percentage said their offboarding process was smooth (13%), those respondents were the least likely to feel the tech industry had lost its former appeal.

Laid-off tech workers received better than average compensation: 90% reported receiving a severance package with an average financial contribution of $7,144. The overwhelming majority used those funds to start their own businesses, either alone or with former coworkers. Even though 68% of managers said they immediately revoked former employees’ work accounts and network access, 83% of recently laid-off tech workers said they’d retained the login information. Luckily for tech employers, the likelihood of their employees being caught and reprimanded for any sabotage attempts was higher than that of any other industry.

Most of those who have been let go — 90% — said they were laid off as part of a group, and only 7% felt blindsided by the decision. A meager 5% claimed to have been laid off in person, while 33% reported being let go via email. Furthering the divide even more, 15% of tech managers said they used the AI language processing tool, ChatGPT to write a script or email for terminating employees. Ironically, as time goes on, we may find ourselves relying on AI and computers for the most humane offboarding processes.

Pursuing Other Opportunities

Having to lay off large swaths of loyal employees can be harsh and bleak if offboarding is done improperly. A smooth transition aided by in-person interactions, a well-guided exit interview, and a healthy severance package can help companies avoid acts of retribution and sabotage. 

With some laid-off employees moving on and starting their own businesses (especially those in the tech sector), employers need to make the offboarding process as humane and streamlined as possible. You never know who you may work with (or for) in the future, so employers and employees should keep it professional.

Methodology 

To explore offboarding in the age of mass layoffs, we surveyed 1,000 employees (53% of whom reported that they had been working in tech) who had been laid off in the last year as well as 178 technology managers.

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