Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
January 27, 2016

Q: I lost my job today and I can’t figure out if I was fired or laid off. How do I make the distinction?

One thing stood out when I was being ushered toward the door. My now former manager told me that I wasn’t being fired because of anything I did or did not do. He said he couldn’t find a project to put me on, and that the company has changed a lot since I started last year and doesn’t have the capacity to train a junior developer (which I am). He specifically said that I was being fired rather than being laid off, but from what I’m reading it sure sounds more like a layoff to me.

A: It sounds like the definition of a layoff to me, but a lot of people are confused about the difference between firing (let go for performance or other cause) and laying off (position eliminated for lack of work, restructuring, or other business reasons). I can’t tell from your note if you mean that he went out of his way to stress that it was a firing and not a layoff, or if he just called it a firing. Assuming the latter, I’d figure it’s just a terminology problem and that it’s in fact a layoff. But if it’s the former, I’d contact him and ask him to clarify.

Actually, you might contact him either way, because you don’t want him telling future reference-checkers that you were fired if in fact you weren’t. You could say something like this: “Fergus, I wanted to check back with you about my termination. You called it a firing, but also said it wasn’t due to anything I’d done, and that it was because of lack of work, which sounds more like a layoff. I want to make sure that I describe it accurately in future interviews, and that we’re both telling reference-checkers the same thing — am I right in thinking this is a layoff, since you’re eliminating the position?”

Read More: How to ask to resign instead of being fired

Q: Recently a friend (now ex-friend) used me as a reference for a director position. He lied and said that I was his former boss from a previous job!

I have never been his boss or manager for any job. I only know him personally and know he is a good director from what he tells me, but I also know why he was fired from his last job.

He called a week ago and told me to look out for a call for a job reference. I was upset and told him not to use me as a reference and that it would be a lie, but he still went on to tell me what to say about a certain position he had from 2000 to 2013 at a certain company and that he had already given my name and number and a letter from me that he typed up! I asked for a copy of the letter. He emailed it to me with the old company name that he worked for, stating that the company had long gone out of business and that the owner died and that I was a direct manager, and it had me stating that he was a great manager and listing his job and duties! So I called that company directly that was suppose to be out of business, only to find out that they have never employed him, and they are still in business and the owner is still alive kicking and well! I’m so pissed off!

So I get the call from the job he is seeking, and my question is… how do I handle it? All this is a personal train wreck waiting to happen. What can be done to make him stop and can I make him stop or seek an attorney for him to stop?

A: Call the reference-checker back and say this: “I’ve never worked with him. He asked me to lie for him and I said no, so I have no idea why he gave you my name anyway. He showed me a letter that he forged that said it was from me, giving a reference for him, so I need to let you know that if he shared that letter with you, it’s a forgery. I didn’t write it, I can’t attest to his work, and I’m horrified that he’s using my name like this.”

You don’t owe your friend any warning that you did this, but just on the principle of thing, I’d let him know once it’s done — “Bob, I told you I wouldn’t lie for you. I don’t know why you gave a reference-checker my name, but I told her the truth — that we’ve never worked together and that your claims that we had were lies. I want to be very clear that you need to stop telling lies involving me, and if you continue to do it, I’ll continue to be very clear with anyone who contacts me. Also, you are a crappy person.”

Read More: My coworker wants me to give him a false reference

As for contacting an attorney to force him to stop, it’s an option but I don’t think you need to spend the money on it. He’s going to figure out that doing this will hurt him, not help him, because you’ll tell the truth.

Read More: Is there a best time of day to fire someone?

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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