Nobody Gets “Fired” Anymore

In a workshop this last week, we were hearing from the many participants who were recently “released” from their jobs.  The terms for being “let go” became themselves the center of attention as we moved around the room.  It seems no one just plain gets “fired” anymore in this politically correct work environment.

In 1980 a person got “fired.”  By 1985 it was “laid off.”  In 1990 it became “downsized.”  Now a person can be “rightsized,” “ restructured,” “ reorganized,” “reengineered” or “put in the mobility pool.”  I hear that many people are being freed up to “pursue other opportunities.”  In this computer age, some people are being “uninstalled” and receiving their termination notices via e-mail.   I’m continually amazed at the fancy words for getting people in the front door and the euphemisms for sending people out the back door continue to grow in creativity as well. 

Is it surprising that morale is often low for the remaining employees who realize that their workload has tripled, their salary has remained the same, and they are the “lucky” ones to still be around after all the smart ones took the “buy-out” package and immediately got better jobs elsewhere?  Now we have to redefine “lucky.”

I asked our readers to submit terms they have encountered:   Here are just a few of the best:

  • Released to the market place to better achieve your goals
  • My husband and I work for a ministry. Last week we were told to “transfer” somewhere else. Of course they didn’t give us anywhere to go either. In other words, we don’t need you anymore after 20 years of service. The reason “It will help your spiritual growth”. Whatever that means!
  • My former company used the term “impacted”. I was told that my position had been “impacted”.
  • My sister was told about the poor economic conditions and the downturn in tourism.  She was informed she was NOT being terminated or laid off. However, her supervisor informed her that her scheduled work hours “were being reduced to zero”. WHEW! At least she wasn’t laid off!
  • My company calls it Evolving. A person is not fired, they are evolved. That means put on a new opportunity which the company thinks there is no chance of winning. Then when the contract is not won, the person has to leave because the business just was not there to support them.
  • I was told they were “restructuring” and that the new “structure” did not include me. I had been downsized, but that I should take notice (like it was a good thing) it says “Reduction In Force” on my official pink slip. I guess that was their nice way of saying I was eligible for unemployment compensation.
  • I tell folks I was DIVORCED from the company, because they sent me away with money and it was an end to our relationship. People seem to readily accept divorce these days.
  • In the “dismissal” letter I got it was written, “due to declining enrollment and increasing expenses, we are forced to dismiss all ‘expendable’ personnel.” To me it was a slap in the face to think that the dedication and enthusiasm I had brought to this institution, as a student and employee, was ‘expendable’.
  • I was told I was being “made available to the industry.”
  • As a programmer/analyst for a large bank, I was invited to ‘participate in the bank’s employee-reduction initiative’ last April.
  • I work for a large electronic retailer, and no one gets fired here, they just get “promoted to customer.”

James H. Kennedy, publisher of “Executive Recruiter News,” lists even more of the latest terms in use:

“Axed, canned, coerced transition, decruited, deselected, destaffed, excessed, fumigation, indefinite idling, negotiated departure, personnel surplus reduction, premature retirement, redundancy elimination, right-sized, selected out, selectively separated, vocational relocation, and workforce imbalance correction.”

Wow – I get tired just reading through all of those.  If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of these terms, the only question is, what are you doing to move forward?  One lady shared that in her mind she had been given the “grace of interruption.”  Now there’s a term that implies peace and renewal. 


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21 Responses to “Nobody Gets “Fired” Anymore”

  1. Jim McKee Says:

    “Fired” means you did something wrong… late/absent excessively, lazy, stole something, and so on. That’s still around. (Although I usually hear it as “terminated” or “termination of employment”.)

    Most of the rest of those terms are NOT the same as “fired”, but rather, indicate a reduction of money spent on labor, without wrongdoing on the part of the former employee.

  2. Tony Hollowell Says:

    I just tell people, “I’m retired!”

  3. connie Says:

    At the funeral home where I was an ‘independent contractor’ at, selling pre-funded funerals thruough insurance, my contract was ‘terminated’ after returning from my ‘trip of a lifetime 3 week motorcycle trip’.
    According to the CEO, it had nothing at all to do with my production levels or personal feelings, it was just business! They replaced me with a ‘yes’ gal. Think they’ll get production?

  4. Dave Cook Says:

    There are some honest managers left. I took a job with a company that had not laid off anyone in 27 years. One day the brought 4 of us into a room, explained to us that the work just wasn’t there, and said that even though we all had worked up to and beyond the companie’s expectations, we were going to be “Laid Off”. At least I got no “BS” about things and they were good to us, giving us all of our vacation pay and al of our weeks pay (they laid us off on tuesday but paid the week’s wages). I think that this is a good company but a slightly odd one due to their honisty.

  5. John DeLong Says:

    Dave, I work for a company that operates in several countrys around the world. A few years ago, there was an initiative to reduce and cut costs world wide, the result being that many people were “fired”. The company called this process Globalization. So presently when anyone of us gets whacked, we amusingly say that they have been “Globalized”

  6. Kevin Love Says:

    Dan, my former employer called it “termination” yet that wasn’t exactly how it happened but none the less that is the term that company uses no matter what the situation happens to be.

    I use a different term though. I tell people that I ave “graduated” from my previous employment and that I am seeking my next best career and have the opportunity to **reinvent** (even though that is a term my former employer uses, it fits my situation and my outlook).

    Keep up the great articles Dan. I refer people to your material all the time. Next time you are in Dallas, let me know and I will be more than happy to buy you a cup of coffee to express my appreciation in person.


    Kevin Love, MBA (e-Business)
    Training and Development Specialist
    Dallas / Fort Worth Area

  7. Ron Buechler Says:

    How about “repurposed”?

  8. Jim McKee Says:

    From Wikipedia:
    One story has it that long ago in Scotland, during the Highland Clearances when the people of a town decided that a particular family was no longer welcome, their house would be burnt (fired) to the ground. The family was expected to get the message: get out of town. Hence, the term “fired” for a person who is no longer welcome at their employer.

  9. kay Says:

    My position had been “eliminated” due to “restructuring” and then they hired someone in my position and gave them a higher title. This was all a result of a shift in leadership.

  10. Wayne Says:

    I was “transitioned to a position outside the company.” When I announced my pending job loss to my fellow choir members, I told them that I was soon to be “unencumbered by gainful employment.”

    I ended up in a much better place that is going strong. My former company is still shrinking–and the whiz kid (brought in to turn things around) who sent me packing has been “transitioned to a position outside the company” himself.

  11. Sheryl BOyd Says:

    It was a concensus that all the other staff members, MDs, RNs etc. “did not want me there” any more and I was not a “team player”. I consider this a gift from God for me to explore other options. I have been able to assist my grandchildren. I am grateful for this opportunity (Thank goodness for Dave Ramsey’s finance lessons.)

  12. Diana Marin Says:

    I’ve got one to ad! A friend of mine recently got fired and know she goes around saying she’s on a permanent vacation!

  13. JM Says:

    In our industry individuals are commonly “displaced”.

  14. Paula Says:

    After 9.5 years in my position I was told that my employers were “going in a new direction.” This direction which I saw coming was bringing in a company to do my job with much less skill, dedication, or appropriate practices in my field of expertise. Not only that they are paying almost as much per person than they were paying more and more hourly than they were paying my crew members… Where is the logic in that?

    I have to say that I haven’t missed my job. Of course the economic side of this is hard to take. This reduced our household income by half. Now I am facing a short sale, deed in lieu, etc. with my mortgage lender.

    That of course brings up other issues of our times. Phone calls from the lender with the same questions repeatedly from their workers in India. Our government’s stimulus money going out of our country with these “American” companies. Everyone says you’re not alone if that is any comfort… It isn’t really but I keep my faith that in fact God has a better plan for me.

    Perhaps when companies fire people they can say that. “God has a better plan for you.” Now that is truly promising! And we can take heart in the real truth; the word of God.

  15. David Bailey Says:

    I was early-selected for retirement from the U.S. Navy. All things considered I should be glad, but ultimately no one likes being not selected for the team.

  16. Rene Bellis Says:

    I took the pro-active approach and took a buyout while they were still available. I had heard that it would be the last one offered, and sure enough, 6 months later they began more lay-offs and no more buyouts. I’ve long since run out of my severance money, am living hand to mouth with unemployment as my only source of income, but have 100% complete control over my time. Always and artist, I’ve since taken up making mosaics and painting on glass. I’ve discovered the beauty of selling on etsy and hope to eventually support myself with my artistic talents exclusively. Please visit my etsy store at

  17. Zondervan, Marko & Me : Len Evans Says:

    […] I heard the news about Zondervan releasing Marko from Youth Specialities  Wednesday along with most everyone else in Youth Ministry Land. By the way, here’s a some great insight from Dan Miller on why Nobody Gets “Fired” Anymore. […]

  18. Leota Says:

    Let’s not forget the “position eliminated”!

  19. Larry Says:

    I’ve been told that after working for years in a highly technical medical position that my role has been changed to what some would consider “A Relief Pitcher role”. They will call me when they need me if it looks like someone may end up working longer than a regular workday. Honestly, not much of a chance of that happening! This has really motivated me into looking at non-traditional work areas, where I have more of a sense of control of my destiny!

  20. Steve Says:

    My boss used to tell people he was firing that he was “giving them a new job opportunity”.

  21. admin Says:

    guess you have to be sensitive in this politically correct world, don’t want to hurt anyones “feelings” so you cant’ use the word fired. LOL

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