Inside Look At How HR Lays Off An Employee: Severance Insights

In a compelling TikTok video, Brittany Pietsch chronicles her own experience of being laid off at Cloudflare, a publicly-traded tech company. The call involves an HR (Human Resources) representative named Rosie and another man, presumably also from HR.

The man begins by asserting that Brittany did not meet Cloudflare's performance expectations, but Brittany interrupts him, expressing her belief that she shouldn't be laid off due to insufficient time to perform.

As you watch the video, you'll notice the evident challenge Rosie and the man face in responding to Brittany's inquiries about the reasons behind her layoff. It becomes apparent that HR is relying on generic terms and lack specific details about Brittany's situation.

Another notable aspect is the absence of Brittany's manager on the call. This omission underscores the significant challenge and emotional difficulty associated with letting employees go. Keeping the manager off the termination call is likely to also protect the manager, since it seems like he was providing positive reviews to Brittany before her layoff.

All employees should watch this video to understand what getting laid off entails. For those who want to try and negotiate a severance, this video should also demystify the layoff process, thereby giving you greater courage to act.

Video: An Inside Look At How HR Lays Off An Employee


Original creator reposting: brittany peach cloudflare layoff. When you know you’re about to get laid off so you film it :) this was traumatizing honestly lmao #cloudflare #techlayoffs #tech #layoff

♬ original sound –

Stay On Top Of Your Company's Performance

If you want to negotiate a severance, stay informed about your company's performance. If you work for a publicly-traded company, attend quarterly earnings calls that cover results, strategy, cost-cutting initiatives, and more. A company's share price underperformance is a common signal that layoffs could be on the horizon.

If you work for a private company, pay attention to the internal performance metrics and management calls as well. Talk to frontline employees in charge of generating revenue if necessary. The worse the performance, the greater the risk of you being let get.

You should not be blindsided by potential layoffs. When I negotiated my severance package in 2012 my firm had already done plenty of layoffs since the 2009 financial crisis. With share price underperformance, annual layoffs were par for the course.

Approach Your Manager Before You Get Laid Off

The key to negotiating a severance is initiating a conversation about getting laid off before HR or your manager broaches the subject with you. Being proactive is crucial; if you wait until you're approached, you lose leverage as you're already perceived as expendable.

Approaching your manager about the possibility of being laid off makes the conversation easier for them, as you've introduced the topic. Consequently, they are no longer positioned as the bearers of bad news and are less likely to face retribution.

By bringing up the idea of getting laid off, you also open the door to negotiating a fair severance package. During this conversation, express your willingness to facilitate a smooth transition for as long as necessary. In return, propose a severance package equivalent to what was offered to previously laid-off employees.

In essence, not only are you reducing the stress on your managers associated with laying off an employee, but you're also volunteering to assist in a smooth transition without requesting additional compensation beyond what was provided to others in similar situations.

There is a reason why people break up over text or ghost people they don't want to disappoint. For the majority of people, laying someone off is difficult to do.

HR Is Mostly On The Company's Side

Brittany's video serves as a valuable resource for all employees, shedding light on the reality that job security is never guaranteed. The layoff conversation she captures with HR is a standard procedure, providing viewers with insights into what to anticipate if they find themselves on the receiving end of an unwelcome call.

Brittany makes a valid point about the challenges of demonstrating performance within a short timeframe, especially during the holiday season. In industries like sales, however, there often exists an “up or out” mentality. No sales means no revenue.

Securing a layoff with a severance package requires strategic foresight. Being proactive when aware of underperformance, whether on a personal or company level, is crucial. Waiting until the dreaded call comes leaves little room for negotiation.

Try not to get overly emotionally attached to your place of employment. Develop additional income streams and remain vigilant for new job opportunities. You should always be networking for your safety.

Lastly, it's essential to recognize that HR is not on your side. HR's primary allegiance is to the company, aiming to protect it from liability and lawsuits.

Consequently, you must be strategic in determining how much information to share with HR if you want to maximize your chances of receiving a severance package.

A Severance Package Can Be Highly Flexible

Many people perceive a severance package as simply a severance check, but in reality, it can take on various forms. Let me illustrate with my wife's severance package as an example.

As a high-performing employee, my wife successfully negotiated a six-figure severance package. Through several discussions, she secured a full-time salary for several months while working only two days a week. The company recognized that having some of her services was better than having none at all.

In addition to the full-time salary arrangement, her employer provided a standard two-month severance check and extended free healthcare benefits for six months. After a half-year hiatus, she was rehired as a consultant with a significantly higher hourly wage. She continued in this role for a year until the birth of our son.

This example highlights the flexibility and negotiability of severance packages, underscoring the importance of having a well-thought-out roadmap to guide the negotiation process. Her severance package also emphasizes the importance of being on good terms with your colleagues.

If you would like that roadmap, pick up a copy of How To Engineer Your Layoff. It's now in its 6th edition with new strategies and insights. Use the code “saveten” at checkout to save $10.

How to engineer your layoff - learn how to negotiate a severance package and be free - best severance negotiation insights

As background, I negotiated a severance package in 2012 that covered over five years of regular living expenses. This allowed me the freedom to travel and dedicate my time to building Financial Samurai. The priceless sense of freedom I've experienced since leaving the finance industry has been invaluable. If you're contemplating leaving your job, it's worthwhile to consider negotiating a severance.

Severance Negotiation Insights is a Financial Samurai original post. Join 60,000+ others and sign up for my free newsletter.

11 thoughts on “Inside Look At How HR Lays Off An Employee: Severance Insights”

  1. While it may feel good and maybe justified to just quit w/o notice, there is little advantage (other than it feels good) and potentially great damage reputationally in doing so. Our last impression is the one that sticks. So years of good work may be marred by a speedy exit (however justified). It is a small world and one never knows if/when a speedy exit might cause reputational damage. Leave with a positive impression and the good karma will likely come back to you. And as you note, the possibility of a severance package.



  2. Sam,

    Re severance packages, I have a story. In 2008 I was on the fence about leaving my large pharma company, good-salary job of 20 years for a biotech with a crazy salary offer. It also meant a move from a low cost of living city in upstate NY to the DC metro area.

    I requested an employment contract, thinking I was a real big-wig and that’s what they do. They declined so I asked what their severance policy was. They stated it was case by case, no policy existed.

    I was still reticent on taking such a risk, so they offered an alternative: a severance package based on half of my starting salary paid upfront in one-third increments over 3 years! I was pretty shocked and ultimately took the position, getting nice little bonuses for three years.

    Then the big one came – after about 5 years into the company, new management came in and disbanded my entire department. Some of my staff found other jobs in the company, but I was escorted out the building. But I also got a severance of half my annual salary! I’ll never know if they were just being generous or forgot about the earlier pre-paid severance deal!



  3. Your ability to negotiate a favorable severance depends on several factors in my experience:
    1. Size of company – The larger the company the less flexibility is generally offered. The company would be establishing precedent that could cost them significantly. They have to treat everyone the same.
    2. Uniqueness of your job – If you perform a role that is unique or requires lots of skill or training, you have a better chance of getting a severance in exchange for training your replacement and being flexible on your notice period.
    3. Job level – Senior execs generally get more than front line people.
    4. Company dynamics – If the company is in serious financial straits or has already started large scale layoffs, your leverage goes down subject to skill exception noted above.
    5. Tenure and performance – The longer your tenure and higher your performance, the better your chances.
    6. Relationship with senior management – The better your relationship is with your immediate boss and higher ups likely to be in on the decision, the better your chances of a good severance.
    7. Race and gender – If you are non-white and/or non-male, you will generally have a better chance of a good severance. White males, not so much.

  4. I read How To Engineer Your Layoff, initiated my own severance package and left with 26 weeks of pay. This was several years ago and it changed my life for the better.

    Thank you! Leaving my job with a severance felt like winning the lottery. I was going to quit anyway so I figured why not try and negotiate.

    The time off was so good for my soul.

    1. That’s wonderful to hear Jacob. A baby panda dies in the woods any time someone quits their job instead of tries to negotiate a layoff with a severance package. If you quit your job, you not only don’t get a severance package, you also become ineligible for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. That’s a lot!

  5. Matthew Drybred

    I live in Pennsylvania, which is an at-will state, so when I have been laid off there has been no severance offered and I had to immediately file for unemployment benefits.

    Each time I was in the third round of layoffs, but I was still naive enough to not be worried.

    These experiences lit a fire under me to get to a place financially where I could practically skip out the door for my unemployment vacation if I were to be laid off again.

  6. re: “Lastly, it’s essential to recognize that HR is not on your side. HR’s primary allegiance is to the company, aiming to protect it from liability and lawsuits.”

    Many employees make the mistake of thinking Human Resources “HR” is there for them, since the employee is indeed a human resource. HR is not there for the employees. They are there to manage the company’s human resource onboarding and off-boarding processes, and protect the company from liability and lawsuits.

  7. > Try not to get overly emotionally attached to your place of employment.

    This point could be applied to numerous aspects of working, not only in a layoff situation. Some people even nowadays are too hung up on where they work and what they work on. Workplace is never your family. Sam, please let us know your thoughts on attachments to a workplace.

  8. Not an easy video to watch. I can feel Brittany’s frustrations, shock, and anger at the way the company handled the situation and also the awkwardness the HR team has in delivering the message while trying to remain neutral and professional about it. I highly doubt HR expected her to call them out on the lack of clarity and reasoning in the company’s decision and can guarantee doing those meetings is the absolute worst part of their jobs.

    Layoffs are very painful experiences when they are completely unexpected and even if you do expect them they’re still really hard. I agree with your suggestions on actively monitoring your employer’s profitability and outlook and preemptively negotiating a severance if you expect a layoff is in store. It’s much easier going into a discussion with HR and your manager to come up with an amicable exit plan on terms that make both sides happy versus getting hit with a forced exit that’s one-sided and only on the company’s terms.

  9. Thanks for the post. Sad to see the same old BS from HR. I would say that she should have documented the positive verbal feedback from her manager.

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