Career Coach - 9

I've already survived several rounds of layoffs. Would it be ethical for me to volunteer for the next round even if I'm on the verge of leaving for a new job?

Dear Career Coach:

I have worked for a tech company for five years. Beginning a year ago my company has been through very hard times. They have reduced staff by as much as 85 percent. I have a very good working relationship with the CIO and president, and I think this is why I am still around while many in similar roles are gone.

I have been looking for new jobs and have all but signed an agreement to start working for a new company in two months.

I have heard that the severance package for those who got laid off is two weeks for every year of service, so I would get two months of paid leave if chosen for layoff. I was thinking of going in and explaining that the company is obviously in trouble and, if they were planning on laying off more, I would like to finish my current client engagement and then part amicably with a severance package.

My question is this: Is it ethical to volunteer for the next round of layoffs, even though there isnt a official volunteer program, while having another job practically in hand? Furthermore, is it a good idea?

Thanks,
Anonymous

Ed Benincasa

Career Coach: Ed Benincasa

It sounds like the CIO has treated you well and that you have a good working relationship. Even though the company has been downsizing, you may not get impacted by the next layoff and therefore would be tendering your resignation anyway.

If you have as good a relationship with your management as you state, my recommendation would be to talk to the CIO and let him/her know that you plan on leaving for another position in a few months. You can then tell him/her that, if another round of layoffs is being planned, you would like to volunteer for it.

This approach shows professional courtesy by providing ample advance opportunity for the CIO to adjust to your departure. And it may save someone else from being laid off. It also helps the CIO if he/she is planning on laying someone else off soon. If someone else were to be laid off and then you left, the CIO may have a hard time replacing the position if it is still needed.

In your conversation you should stress some of the reasons for leaving and volunteering for the layoff as mentioned above. You should also mention that you are appreciative of what the CIO has done for you and that you wanted to be up front with him/her.

Of course there may be no layoffs planned, or the CIO may react negatively to the situation which can cause unpredictable results. But, only you can judge that risk based on your relationship and past history.

Ed Benincasa is the director of MIS for FN Manufacturing and is also the corporate network manager for the corporations wide area network infrastructure. He is a member of the eWEEK Corporate Partners and can be reached at edb@fnmfg.com.

Gary Bronson

Career Coach: Gary Bronson

There are two issues here, and I would deal with them separately. First, ethics. Being ethical means that you are being honest in your dealings. That means, for example, not using company time or company assets for anything other than company business or not giving away company information in order to obtain a new job with another company. Being ethical also means that you are not taking advantage of your position with the company by, say, accepting inappropriate gifts from vendors. Also, if you have signed or implied any sort of commitment to remain with the company for a certain period of time, this too should be honored. If the company has invested money in your training, there may be obligations that exist. However, if no such agreement or obligations exist, you should focus on the long term question of where you should be working.

The second issue is whether it makes sense to volunteer for a layoff. Unless your new job is guaranteed and you have made a commitment to start working somewhere else, you should not volunteer to go at this point. If your current company is struggling with whom to let go next, they would appreciate your letting them know you have other plans. However, dont bank on any guarantees of a severance package or being asked back if your other plans dont work out. An honest discussion with your manager on your importance to the company would be appropriate, and you may even ask your managements recommendation on whether you should be out looking for another job.

Your companys management team is in a tough spot, and Im sure they cant afford to lose key people. Normally in that kind of situation, there should be no question in your mind whether you are one of those key people. However, unless you are receiving direct communication from your CIO as to the issues surrounding the company and the company strategy on next steps and your importance, you should not make the assumption you are a key employee. Focus should then be on a job elsewhere.

Gary Bronson is IT enterprise operations manager at Washington Group International, in Boise, Idaho.

Brian Jaffe

Career Coach: Brian Jaffe

It would not be unethical for you to ask for a package in such a situation. It is not unheard of. Of course, the company is under no obligation to give you a package for quitting, and they could certainly say no if they feel youre going to leave anyway. Your relationship with your current management will probably be a key factor in determining whether your offer is accepted.

You may want to consider finishing your current client assignment before approaching management. Otherwise, they may infer that you are trying to hold that work hostage and that you are seeking severance as ransom pay.

You mention that youve heard what the severance policy is. As a general rule, a commitment of confidentiality is standard in all severance agreements. So, if you tell your management how you know that information, you may be putting a former co-worker at risk of being in violation of their own severance agreement. And, since severance is often managements way of assuaging guilt, they may not feel the need to offer you the same terms.

On the other hand, if you are one of the surviving 15 percent, management may feel you are now a critical member of the team and may not be happy to see you go.

Brian D. Jaffe is a contributing editor for eWEEK and can be reached at brian@red55.com.

Career Coach: Robert Rosen

If the company is in such bad shape, I think theres nothing wrong with volunteering. Laying people off is unpleasant for both sides, and by volunteering youre reducing the stress on the managers. Thats worth something.

Robert Rosen is CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He can be reached at rosenr@mail.nih.gov .

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