That's what I was told at the one-on-one meeting with my boss.  I joined a new club first thing in the morning on my 59th birthday.  The club has many members.  And each of them has had a similar meeting.  But they have been told many different things.

"Impacted?"  I was confused.  Does that mean that some mass has hit me at a high rate of speed?  I didn't feel it.  Or is it more like a tooth, where one becomes impacted upon failing to emerge properly, resulting in twisting, tilting or displacement?  That sounds more like what happened.  I'd also note that the teeth most likely to be impacted are the wisdom teeth, and judging by those left behind, the term seems quite appropriate.

The common parlance is that one is "laid off."   When speaking to one in this situation, care should be taken to make sure the second word is added.  While the layees may feel they have been screwed, they certainly find the latter word to be the more operative of the two.

But management does not like to use the common term.  It is too harsh for the ears.  There is a need to soften the blow.  Not for the employee, mind you...for themselves.  No one likes to talk about laying someone off.  It seems so cruel.  It is an active verb, connotating a willful act by the manager.   Telling someone they have been impacted is passive on the part of the informant.  It's as if the manager was helpless to intervene as the meteor shower struck, and without participation from management, the employees have been impacted.  And due to the seemingly random nature the selection process involved, perhaps the meteor shower analogy is not far off.

"Downsizing" is a favorite euphemism.  It is as if the company is like a tube of toothpaste, unavoidably rolled up from the distant end, and employees are squirted out of the nozzle, which is coincidentally nearby.  But it is an odd term to be applied to a person.
"You have been downsized," announces the manager.
"Oh my God," shrieks the ex-employee.  "I used to be 6 feet tall.  How small am I now?"
"No, no, no.  The company has downsized you."
"So my waist used to be a 38, and now it's a 34?  My doctor will be pleased."

Management almost never lays anyone off.  No, they prefer to rightsize, redeploy, and optimize the workforce.  Funny how the optimizations rarely reduce the management-to-employee ratio.  I guess there are just never enough managers prior to the optimization.

Sometimes the company conducts a Reduction in Force.  As if a Sith Lord has intervened.
"Use the Force, Luke."
"I'd love to, Obi-wan, but I'm afraid I can't.  It's been reduced."
"Better turn that targeting computer back on."

Occasionally, the employee gets a good deal from the situation.   Some companies provide a Termination Allowance Plan.  This one seems properly acronymed.  It's easy to visualize the boss coming by and tapping you on the shoulder.
"Come with me," he says with a wink.
"Looks like Johnny's been tapped," they mutter after Johnny is out of sight.
"What a lucky dog."

In the UK, people are "made redundant."  I repeat...made redundant.  "I'm sorry, Mr. Churchill, but I'm afraid that current conditions have made you redundant."  Then the ex-employee has to tell everyone over and over what has happened, so I suppose this charming English phraseology is appropriate.

Companies also streamline.  I can just see the managers watching the employees in the wind tunnel.
"Wow, Johnson is really creating some wind resistance."
"Yeah, I guess we'd better let him go."
Let go?  That's another whole thought process.  Was Johnson tugging at his leash?  Letting someone go implies previous restraint.  Poor Johnson.  I hope he recovers from the chafing he got from straining against the straps.

Companies rebalance, off-board, cost-cut, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

But it's not just management that uses clever terminology.  Employees also have many ways to say they have been laid off.

Many of them relate to moving and separation:
One can be shown the door, outcast, sent away, plank-walked, chewed and spit, expelled, thrown back, released, returned to the pool, removed, excreted (out and on).  OK, no one says the last one, but they clearly use words that clearly mean the same thing.

Some recall violent activity:
The employees are decimated, rubbed out, eliminated, erased, whacked and so on.  This is a terrible thought process, indicating that the employee thinks that there is no life after this job.  What an awful thought.  The implication is that you have no value outside of the narrow niche you have been filling for your current employer.  Don't believe it for a minute.  At the very least, there are many burgers yet un-flipped.

Some terms are hard to classify:
I've been toasted, purged, made historical, scapegoated, and my personal favorite, surprise-retired.  That's what happened to me.  I had not thought about a retirement date, and then one was thrust upon me.  For the better.  I had not realized that the annuity that gets me to the poverty level would be so useful.

Some are specific to particular industries:
One can be vaporized (at the perfume company),  torpedoed (Navy defense contractor), sunk (at the marina), put out to pasture (at the track), pasteurized (at the dairy farm), junked (collision shop) or have reached escape velocity (NASA).

Some terms are sports related:
You've been scratched, removed from the roster, benched, permanently suspended, run-down, tagged out, traded (when others are hired), substituted, or red-carded.  Though the actions may be punitive, the sports analogy provides a good next step.  Go find another team.

Some are pragmatic:
One finds himself situated to collect unemployment benefits, capable of providing an income number that looks really good on the FAFSA form, or having ample time to look for a new job.  All true.  And all to be used to advantage.

And some are positively uplifting:
You can be freed, free-at-last, unshackled, paroled, unrestrained, given the gift of time, unchained, and provided with a new opportunity.  And you have!   Though you probably won't like it initially, being laid off is really an opportunity.  A chance to join a new coffee klatch.  Time to set new goals.  A golden opportunity to meet a whole new group of people.  Time to annoy your spouse by being home so much, and to devise entirely new excuses about why the basement isn't finished.  A chance to get out of the rut.  Time to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do for the rest of your life.  Or at least the next section of your life.  

Not a bad situation, even if you do end up making the coffee much of the time.

Originally posted to Better Than We Found It on Tue May 07, 2013 at 06:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Unemployment Chronicles, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

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