You want cold? I'll give you cold
Being a contractor, I couldn't actually be fired. I either didn't have my contract renewed, or they just terminated it, for whatever reason. Most companies hired me (and other contractors) for one of two reasons, generally. Either they were about to ramp down and didn't want to hire anyone full time, or they already HAD ramped down, and overdid it and needed temp help.
In any case, as I often was coming in the door as full timers were leaving, I've seen a lot of layoffs, second hand. And that includes a lot of shenanigans, like:
- A CEO proudly announced that the company was "intending to widely expand its' network of alumnus"
- After a merger of two companies, worker ants came into the office on Monday. If you couldn't log in to your computer, you were told to go to HR, not IT, to get it resolved.
- One company's Payroll department was notoriously bad; everyone's paycheck was a crapshoot, often being off by hundreds of dollars in either direction for whatever reason. In a year of 26 pay periods, one employee had 23 of his paychecks require intervention and correction. So, when Thursday rolls around, and everyone in the department sees their paychecks are far too generous, often having several thousands of dollars (in one case, something like $23,000) added, off to Payroll, they went to complain. Payroll said there was no problem, that was severance pay. Worker ants go back to their bosses to report what Payroll told them, bosses go "oh, yeah, I've been meaning to talk to you, can you come into my office?"
- This same company had a fire department mandated physical reorganization of the floor layout (the cube farm as it was violated the fire code). When the new layout (deemed "HMS Titanic Deckchair Rearrangement" by staff) was posted for all to see, few could not notice that the old layout had 70 cubicles, while the new had 58. There were, however, 6 new offices, for management. The other six employee's names simply didn't appear anywhere. This was for a reason.
- There are of course several examples where the moving staff/IT/facilities departments were informed prior to the employee's exit, and came to repossess the company property whilst the employee was still using it. It's not uncommon to find your position was terminated when movers come into your cubicle while you're working and start disassembling your bookcase.
- One particularly egregious example was the lad who, having just become a father for the first time, took six weeks of unused vacation to greet his new offspring and care for the wife at home for a spell. He returned to the office to find new furniture, new locks on the doors, and a new tenant. He also found a posting on the notice board, dated a the middle of his vacation, announcing that he'd left the company.
- I had one boss in a company where head office deemed her so essential, they required her to move to head office, several hundred miles and one country over. Being in her 50s, with a husband, house, and children (ie. a life), she wasn't terribly keen on the offer and turned the promotion down. Management declared that failure to accept a promotion equated to a resignation, and announced publicly that she had chosen to resign. This was a shock to those of us that reported to her; she told us that it was even more of a shock to her, as you can imagine. For bonus points, company stated that because it was a resignation, not a termination, she wasn't entitled to severance pay. That got resolved when management discovered one of her reports was married to a labour lawyer, who lived for slam dunk cases like that. For double bonus points, only after they did this did they realize she was critical to a project in development, and indicated that they wanted her to stay for three more months. When the issue of salary was raised, they replied "what salary? You're already getting severance pay".
- One large company held an off site "training day", but only some of the employees were invited. Management indicated that it was on a rotational basis. It turned out the training was a job fair; when you arrived at the convention hall, they handed you a notice of termination, and pointed you to other companies that were interviewing.
- One "how not to" example was a company that realized it needed to shrink its' workforce by 40%. However, they deemed a 40% cut to be too emotional, so they decided that they would only terminate 5%. This relieved people, until they realized the company meant 5% per pay period, every pay period, for the next 8 pay periods. So, for 4 months, every paycheque was accompanied by a layoff. You'd make this cut, but you would you survive the next one? And the one after that? And the six after that? So, for several months, the entire staff was on pins and needles, seeing if they'd survive the axe. Remember, management did this to be humane, and keep morale up. For bonus points, payday was Thursday, but deliverables were due Friday. So, people were working 60 hours a week to make a deadline, only to have key team members axed on Thursday. It didn't have the positive impact management had anticipated.
- One lad discovered that when you sign for a company credit card, as a co-signer, you're still legaly on the hook for it. While that protects the company in case of bankruptcy, one company took it a tad too far. They fired the lad when he was on site, and cancelled his company cards. He was in a foreign country, and had been for weeks, and suddenly found that his huge hotel bill, as well as his flight back, were now his to pay, he discovered, to the tune of about $20,000. Fortunately, contrary to what the company believed, they actually could be held accountable for that (and in court, they were, but it had to go that far).
Ah, the memories.