A reader recently wrote to me about a unique situation. They had landed an impressive contract position. Everything was going great for 11 months – until, suddenly, they were let go. The company laid off a large number of people all at the same time. After soliciting feedback, the reader was given a good review and sent on their way.
It wasn’t personal. Or was it? Just a few days after being let go, the reader’s contract job appeared online as an open position. It was the same job at the same company. Then, a friend of the reader was hired at the same company. The reader’s friend asked what had happened and was told the reader was let go due to poor performance.
How could this be? The reader had never been given any negative feedback.
Since this incident occurred, the reader has had multiple job interviews. This has left them with a difficult question: “What should I say in future job interviews if someone asks, ‘Why did you leave the company?’ How do I honestly answer that without badmouthing anyone?”
Reader, let me say first: I am so sorry this happened to you. Being let go is difficult enough. Receiving conflicting messages about it later is even worse.
When you interview, it’s important to be honest. It’s also important to be as accurate as possible. The problem here is the company may not have been honest with you. If there was a performance issue, it’s possible that your manager avoided their duties by not giving you direct, constructive feedback.
The problem is, you don’t really know the truth. What you’ve heard is thirdhand information at best. It’s tough to know how much of what you were told is rumor and how much is reality. For example: Did the feedback your friend heard come from your former boss or from an old coworker who likes to gossip?
In a case like this, it can be tough to know what to say in an interview. The best course of action may be to go with the company line: You were part of a mass company layoff. It wasn’t personal. Your performance ratings were good – which is documented in your employee file.
When someone leaves a company, others have a tendency to talk. They may try to guess the reasons someone left. This gossip can spread misinformation. Even if the rumor is true, how would you validate it? Furthermore, how would it benefit you to do so? It would not be helpful to provide unproven, negative information to a future employer. It would also not be helpful to explain a long story about your departure and the rumors that followed.
Stick with what you were officially told and move on to a more exciting and fulfilling opportunity with a manager who appreciates your skills and talents.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.