What’s The Difference Between Firing, Layoff and Forceful Resignation?

6 minutes

Many terms float around for the loss of a job against your will. You will hear of getting laid off, being fired, your role being made redundant, being a victim of downsizing, being sacked, or being forced to resign. Some might say that the terminology doesn’t matter because at the end of it, the employee is without a job, without an income, no colleagues, suffering from an eroded personal identity and is seemingly without purpose.

While there may be different reasons behind getting laid off or getting fired, for the sake of understanding, they can be divided into two broad buckets. One is not your fault (layoffs), and the second is usually your fault (getting fired), or is made to look like it’s your fault. Let’s try to understand this better –

Getting fired (dismissed, terminated, sacked)

This usually happens to one person in the team and not the whole team or division. Also, an individual gets fired, because their performance has not been up to the standards that the company has set. A lot of companies have a performance rating, and going below a certain rating means that the employee is either fired immediately, or put into an employee improvement program for a limited amount of time, and then fired if their performance still doesn’t improve.

Getting Fired
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Employees are also fired for various other reasons other than performance. These can include: sexual harassment, fraud, stealing, damaging property, corporate espionage, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, insubordination, misconduct, health reasons, extended leave of absence,etc.

Getting fired can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s career and also on their mental health. They have a tough time explaining why they got fired, but as in all cases, honesty is the best policy.

Read our story on being fired:

I Was Falsely Labelled As A Non-Performer And Fired Because Of Office Politics

Getting laid off

One of the main differences between layoffs and getting fired is that it seldom happens in isolation. When an employee gets laid off, it is usually not an agony that is suffered alone, but is shared with others. This means that. Entire teams and divisions, get laid off. Thus, it is rarely done to target a single individual. While the pain of a loss of income and identity is no less, at the very least, employees spend less time blaming themselves and feeling ashamed.


Layoffs happen for various reasons like company restructuring, merger of two companies leading to roles becoming redundant, monetary losses, sale of a division, outsourcing and so on. One of the main differences between a layoff and being fired is that the employee can be rehired at a later date when the business environment improves. On the contrary employees who’re fired are not eligible to be rehired.

Read our stories on being laid off:

I Was Unemployed For a Year After Getting Laid Off – This is What I Learnt

My First Layoff Taught Me To Love My Work And Not My Workplace

Read our expert tips on how to bounce back from a layoff:

12 Simple Steps from a Career Expert To Bounce Back from a Layoff

9 Tips From a Top Recruiter On How To Ace Your Job Hunt Post-Layoff

Forced resignation

This is neither a layoff, nor getting fired, but something in between. This is usually a case of an employer or manager wanting to avoid the pain of firing and the cost of severance by forcing the employee to resign.

This can be done by forcing the employee to sign an agreement, where they agree to resign and forego the severance package. If the employee refuses to resign, employer could threaten the employee with being fired, and heaping the individual with the shame of the “fired” tag forever on their resume. In this case, it might be a good idea to resign, leave, and make a clean break.

Forced Resignation

The other way to force an employee to resign is to demote them, assigning menial tasks, not giving them enough work, harassment, denying leave, and so on. The employee is made to feel bad and disillusioned and therefore forced to resign with or without a job.

Sometimes, the employer might throw in a bone, giving the employee a small severance package, this is done to avoid bad press that comes from firing employees or they may be wary of breaking the law of the land. This works best for both the employer and the employee. The employer gets no bad PR and the employee avoids the black mark of being fired on their resume.

An employee always has the right to fight the forced resignation and no severance by negotiating a fair settlement. If the employer doesn’t yield, please note that the employee can seek legal redressal, to ensure that they get a fair settlement. Even if an employee has signed an employee contract that includes something that is detrimental, they can still contest this legally.

Read our story on forced termination:

I Fought My Unfair Layoff Legally & I Won – Here Are Things You All Should Know

This article is a part of  #Fired2FiredUp Campaign by YourDOST. Visit the page for real life stories, learnings and tips from career psychologists and recruiters.

Have you experienced a layoff recently? Are you finding it difficult to cope with it? Talk to an Expert at YourDOST.

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Nelson Vinod Moses

Nelson is a freelance journalist and writing fellow at YourDOST. He writes on mental health and social entrepreneurship. Given his interest in mental health, he recently attended a year-long counselling course. His writing has appeared in Fortune, The Times of India, Quartz, FactorDaily, Yahoo, Businessworld and Business Standard.