Confessions Of A Corporate Hit Man: 'I Got Paid To Restructure'

George Clooney Up In The Air layoffs

When people ask me what I did before I became a career coach, I say, "Have you seen the movie 'Up in the Air' with George Clooney?" At which point, they say, "Yes!" Then I say, "He had my job." Sometimes, I even throw in the random additional fact that Clooney and I share the same birthday too. (Sorry George, you're older!)

I Got Paid To 'Restructure'

My last two major roles in the corporate world involved me "restructuring" divisions of companies as a way to turn them around and make them profitable. In short, I got to sit people down, one by one, and tell them how they were moving on to a new, better chapter in their lives. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of one of those conversations knows that after the words, "You are being let go," that you don't really hear much else. Your body goes stiff, your pulse explodes, there's a buzzing in your head and a rush in your ears. Well, let me tell you what it's like to be the one delivering the news...

Just Keep Talking, Get It Done

I remember how my heart would race as I calmly explained what was happening. I would watch their facial expressions and body language sink while I was saying over and over in my mind, "Just keep talking, get it done," as a way to stay focused and on the task. I would try not to move too much for fear that they would see the sweat stains under my arms. It never got easier. Never, ever. The pit in my stomach was accompanied by a high-strung anxiety level that could only be calmed that evening by eating a huge fat-filled meal. I'm not kidding. I would medicate myself with a food coma.

More: How To Make Sure You're Not Laid Off: 5 Tips

The Strange Reputation I Got

Ironically, it was the horrible experience of letting people go that also gave me my passion for coaching. The pain of laying people off was softened when I could at least assist in some way at helping those affected find a job.

Honestly, I would get so excited when an ex-employee would call me and say, "I got the BEST new job. I'm so glad you let me go! I had no idea how miserable I was until I got out of there." In fact, I got so good at helping people, I became known as the manager to go to secretly if you wanted to leave the company. Yes. That's right.

Employees would come to me and say, "I think I need to find a new career." And then we'd work together to help them figure it out so that they could leave. To me, it made perfect sense. I got a heads-up that the person was leaving so I could prepare to backfill their role and they got to leave on great terms. Not to mention, it helped me stay in touch with them in the future.

How to Never Get Laid-Off

As a result of my experiences, both as the person who used to do the laying off, and now as the person who coaches those let go, I feel I've become pretty good at determining the best way to avoid being in the hot seat. The answer is simple: Stop being an employee. Instead, see yourself for what you really are: A business-of-one. Today's professional needs to know that on any given day, one of two things can happen. Either:
  • Your employer doesn't want to do business with you anymore.
  • You don't want to do business with your employer anymore.

In both cases, you need to have built up a marketing plan and a sales strategy that allows you to find a new customer. That way, you can make the switch on your own terms.

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Mike Browne

To KTZ1017: I too am over 50, two college degrees, no tattoos, no prison record. I'm in decent shape and my appearance does not frighten small children or animals. The problem is that I'm a white male over 50. The reason I get from a 20-something HR person during job interviews is that I'm "overqualified." Also, I refuse to answer the "voluntary" information form regarding my race. Perhaps I should sharpen my negotiating skills.

December 12 2012 at 5:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Steve Jobs

The following commenters referring to the author as "he" cracks me up. Clearly at the end of the article it has info about "J.T." with a photo of a woman and mentions that this person is actually a "she". Makes me wonder if people actually read the article.

December 03 2012 at 1:23 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

LOL at all the people on here that think they have secure jobs. Never trust ANYcompany. You are replaceable and in the end, you are just a number.

November 15 2012 at 10:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

There is no way this guy or anyone else in a high powered corporate job has time to help the layoffs get new jobs. this despite his good intentions. Best he could do is give a good recommendation letter. (Probably a form letter).
I smell BS here.

November 15 2012 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My son was laid off from his job, the guy said it wasn't personal and being unemployed wasn't all that bad... About three months later that guy was laid off and was so upset he killed himself.

November 15 2012 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Wildman52's comment


November 24 2012 at 8:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Gentsch

This piece of garbage is trying to ease his guilty conscience by talking about a handful of people he may have helped when there are probably thousands of lives that he ruined. Adding insult to injury, now he's making even more cash by writing and selling articles about his miserable deeds. After being laid off twice in a decade, I can only hope that the next bus this scumbag sees is the one running him down.

November 15 2012 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lu Ann

At my previous employment (notice I said previous not current) we also had an 'axe man' as we called him. This guy would visit our plant and you KNEW heads would roll that day! He fired people with a smile on his face and he definitely didn't have tummy troubles doing it. The guy was a complete jerk while he wallowed in his authority and control. Our mfg plant ended up moving out of the USA to Canada. 47 or us lost our jobs to our sister Canadian mfg plant....this all took place 6 months after we ere all called into a meeting to tell us how secure our jobs were....and it would be safe to buy homes, cars etc. One can NEVER count on loyality from an employer anymore. This was only true years and years ago. So sad to be always on edge, never secure, wobbling wildly on theat edge or employment or unemployment.

November 15 2012 at 8:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joan Arena

I know of a company that hired such an individual. His behaviors revealed what we perceived to be emotional disturbance -- seemingly filled with rage at all times. There was little he could do to hide it. The only time he seemed happy was during his "sessions" with employees. Rather than take a "gee, we're so sorry about this" stance, he gloated, belittled and insulted people making little more than minimum wage. He used his "christianity" to inform a woman that she was a tramp and that he would see to it that she would never work again -- anywhere. He told a man who just about begged to keep his job that if he was so good, he would be "running the place like him," and actually manufactured lies to attack innocent indivuduals. The personal grief he caused was immeasurable....

The good news: He was having too good a time, exposed the company to numerous lawsuits (always settled out of court), was soon after fired himself, and ended up owning a "business" re-selling used crap on line out of a shabby store-front that went under very quickly. He had to eventually move to another state to find work, and word has it that he took a major bath on the huge house he had in town and couldn't unload.

The even better news: On the day he was let go, he was removed by company security, and was screaming and crying all the way to his car. He was so delusional, he later demanded that company security officers be posted in front of his used-crapola business. Funny thing, they said, "NO!"

Sometimes, you just gotta laugh.

November 15 2012 at 8:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


November 15 2012 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The election is over and now it's payback time watch the unemployment numbers climb through the roof, just
received a call from a close friend who was told she will be laid off tomorrow. Her company waited until a large
piece of new business came in, Because of her efforts and a week before she was to receive her bonus. Call
it what u want restructure, organization changes whatever, Their is great motivation to stick it to Obama and
Congress and the business people will surely do their part in cutting back and laying off. We will make
Greece look like a walk in the park. So be prepared the little people are ready to march and molotov
cocktails will fly.

look like a walk in the park.

November 15 2012 at 4:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to duvid21's comment

Not happy about Your boy (Romney) losing?? Let it go, it'll do you digestion good! Life goes on, good and bad!!

November 15 2012 at 9:51 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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