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Be mindful of what you post on social media after a layoff, experts say

You’ve been invited to a meeting with your boss and a human resources representative. It comes at a time of uncertainty in your workplace. The writing is on the wall — you’re about to be laid off.
A man walks through a downtown Toronto office building in a June 11, 2019 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

You’ve been invited to a meeting with your boss and a human resources representative. It comes at a time of uncertainty in your workplace. 

The writing is on the wall — you’re about to be laid off. 

While some workers might post a note on LinkedIn or stay silent on social media altogether, a trend has been emerging where gen Z and millennial employees are filming the emotional experience and broadcasting it on social media apps such as TikTok for the world to see.

It’s undeniably tough to think clearly when you’re in shock over losing your job. However, experts say it’s best to take a step back and thoroughly consider the message you want to get across before posting about a layoff online because it could potentially affect you legally, financially and professionally for years to come.

“You can post something on social media and it sort of lasts forever,” said Neena Gupta, a partner at Gowling WLG who specializes in employment and human rights law.

“And even when you take down your post, it can have echoes, so think about whether or not that is the impression you want people to remember five years from now.” 

Experiencing a layoff is a painful process, and as humans, our judgment is diminished when we’re feeling raw and angry, Gupta said. 

In the immediate aftermath of a layoff, you may not necessarily be thinking about confidentiality obligations with your former employer, how you’re coming across to a prospective employer, or anti-defamation provisions.

But that doesn't mean you need to stay silent online after a layoff. 

To avoid any repercussions, Gupta suggests using a matter-of-fact tone when sharing the experience online. 

“The world has changed. We know that jobs are not forever. With most layoffs, there is nothing to be ashamed of, even if you realize, 'You know what, I wasn't quite what they were looking for,'” she said. 

“And if you can show a bit of class and professionalism, it goes a long way.”  

Kadine Cooper, a career and life transition coach, said the first thing you should do after being informed of a layoff is take time to ground yourself and come to terms with the loss. Once you have processed those difficult emotions, ask yourself what you want to do next, where you can seek out mentorship and surround yourself with individuals who want you to succeed.

When you’re ready to share your career update online, make sure to strike a positive and professional tone, as this can set you up for future opportunities, Cooper recommended.  

“You still have the power, right? So start creating a positive narrative about it,” she said. 

“Write your posts in a way that highlights your resilience and your adaptability and even maybe start emphasizing some of the experiences you gained during that time with the company.” 

On the flipside, while some people choose to be candid about their layoff experiences to increase transparency around certain employers or industries, Cooper said “ranting and raging” on social media may hurt your future job prospects and discourage former co-workers from providing you with a reference for another job.

“If anything, people might feel sorry for you, but I think it's essential to be honest about the situation without divulging too much sensitive information. So, you don't want to blame anyone for the layoffs,” she added. 

Laid-off workers who cast their previous employers in a negative light online could also put their severance packages at risk, Gupta said. 

She said she once represented an employer who wouldn't budge on severance negotiations with an employee because the employee chose to secretly record their layoff meeting and share it on social media. 

“It was unfortunate because I think it backfired on the employee,” Gupta explained. 

“Instead of essentially focusing on what we should have focused on, which is, what is a fair package for somebody who is in this position for this many years, the current job market, etc., the whole negotiation essentially was trading barbs about the secretly recorded meeting.” 

There are legal repercussions to take into account as well. 

Most employment agreements and termination letters include a clause that states the employee should not disparage their employer. Gupta recommended reading these documents and your workplace’s social media policy as well as being mindful of what you share online. 

Otherwise, there’s a chance you could start getting embroiled in libel and defamation action, she said. 

Both Gupta and Cooper suggested treating a layoff as a learning experience and a chance to network with people and figure out what you really want to do next. 

“Use that time to seek out the resources that you need to help you ... move forward,” Cooper said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.

Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press