Why ‘buyout’ is just a nicer way of saying ‘layoff’

From an ongoing debate between readers and yours truly; this exchange appeared today in comments on my post seeking first-person accounts from layoff victims about what it was like to be told you’re losing your job.

Anonymous@12:13 p.m.: Not to belabor the point, but you were not laid off. USA Today said it needed to cut 45 positions. A letter went out to all eligible employees, offering a buyout. I received one. So did you. The choice was to accept, by Gannett standards, a pretty generous deal or to play the odds and stay. As it turned out, 43 people volunteered to take the money and leave. That’s what you did. The company decided at the time that 43 was good and it would not lay off another two people. Being laid off is an emotional trauma. Those who are laid off merit respect, dignity and compassion. You, trying to cloak yourself as a “me too” victim, do a disservice to those fine men and women.

Jim Hopkins@12:26 p.m.: You and I will continue to (respectfully, I hope) disagree. I spent my career cutting through business jargon, which is why I treat buyouts and layoffs as the same animal. You are correct that we received letters from USAT. Yet, I’m looking at that letter right now, and the word “buyout” never appears in the text. What does appear, however, is the following sentence: “This offer is voluntary; you do not have to accept it. However, if we do not meet our goal to eliminate 45 newsroom positions through this voluntary program, we will need to begin the process of identifying positions for an involuntary layoff program.”

Voluntary vs. involuntary layoff program? Whatever it’s called, it’s a layoff, in my book.

Earlier: In my own buyout, secrecy and hurt feelings

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: My USAT ID card, taken on my first day, May 1, 2000]

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