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What If Your Employer Fired You By Mistake?

Your employer fires you, along with a few dozen of your co-workers, by mistake. You might think this workplace scenario would be the stuff of fiction, but it may have just happened for real at a major Silicon Valley employer.

Yahoo! reportedly laid off nearly 30 employees by mistake. It turns out these employees weren't supposed to be fired; they had simply been labeled as low performers. As The New York Post reports:
"They put people on firing lists who they didn't mean to — people who were lower on the performance scale but who weren't meant to get fired," an insider explained. "But no one told the managers, and then they had the conversations, and it was like, 'Oops.'"
Oops, indeed. That's the rumor, anyway. Yahoo! denies it happened.

The story as reported, however, raises an interesting, if theoretical, workplace question: If your employer let you go by mistake, then would you want your job back?

Hmm. On the one hand, the employer has just let you know that it sees you as a low performer -- if you didn't know it already -- which doesn't exactly inspire the warm fuzzies. Do you want to return to a workplace that has apparently typecast you in an under-performing role? Would you be making a mistake?

On the other hand, it's a job, the economy is still tough, and if the company has rolled out the red carpet (along with a mea culpa, we'll get to that in a minute) awaiting your return, then it may be the easiest solution for now. At least you have work to do.

Still, there might be a few worries in the back of your head as you return to work. Could it happen to me again? And how can I get rid of the dreaded "low-performing employee" label?

This is where a stellar management communication strategy would be crucial. The employer in this situation should ideally offer the returning employee(s) a well-written performance plan, as well as regular one-on-ones, so the employee(s) can see month-over-month performance improvement and regain some lost confidence. I think an employee in this situation would be wise to inquire about the performance plan going forward.

At the same time, the company would need to reassure ALL employees that it has fixed the problem so that it never happens again, because this scenario is truly the stuff of employee nightmares. It's not funny, especially if layoff rumors are already making the rounds.

So, would you want to return to a company that fired you by mistake? I hope you never have to answer this question for real.


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