Are layoffs institutional cruelty and abuse?

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This article first appeared on the author’s blog and is republished here with permission.

Getting laid off is a traumatic experience that many people working in broadcasting experience at least once or twice a career. It probably happens less frequently in public media, and it’s perhaps why pubcasters are less prepared for the day it happens. 

I’ve been working with two clients, each with about 10 years of broadcast experience. The former public radio staff member feels that their loyalty was not appreciated. During our first call, she said at least three former colleagues were less talented and should have been released instead of her. My other client held a similar on-air position for one of the largest commercial broadcasters in the country. His attitude is that he did nothing wrong, and his layoff may be an opportunity for something better. 

It reminds me of a widely reported incident when WNYC canceled its program The Takeaway. A program host tweeted that the decision (and her layoff) was “an act of institutional cruelty and abuse” by station executives. “The producers, editors, directors, and team of @TheTakeaway deserve SO MUCH BETTER than this,” she tweeted.

I’m sure workers who faced layoffs at SiriusXM and many other broadcast operations wished executives had made different decisions, too. 

Word of your layoff won’t necessarily damage your reputation, so don’t worry. Remember that top performers are sometimes laid off because they are more expensive than the lower performers. 

Nearly 80% of American workers fear a lack of job security.

How you handle your layoff says a lot about your professional attitude and will impact your mental attitude. Looking to blame others may make you feel good at the moment, but it won’t help your reputation. 

So, what should you do if you have been laid off?

  • Reach out to your network. You do have a professional network, don’t you? Let them know what you want to do next. Let them help you find opportunities. 
  • Get your act together. Update your resume, portfolio and LinkedIn profile.
  • Be sure to have a financial strategy in place before a layoff. You may be offered a separation package that includes health care. Ask about separation pay. Get everything that is owed you. That includes owed commissions, bonuses, unused vacation, and personal time. 
  • Ensure you get a letter from your employer stating that you were laid off and not fired. 
  • Contact your state’s Employment Office about possible COBRA health coverage. 
  • Register for unemployment compensation with your local state Employment Office. 
  • Seek the advice of an employment lawyer who represents workers. 

Layoffs are not good, but the sooner you accept reality and look out for yourself, the better you will be. 

Dave Edwards helps public media professionals become more effective leaders through executive coaching and consulting services. He previously was general manager of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. He blogs at

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