Euphemisms for Job Loss

By Maeve Maddox

The unfortunate occasion of being dismissed from employment can be expressed in numerous ways.

Some of the more familiar expressions are:
to be made redundant
to receive a pink slip
to be dismissed
to be discharged
to be laid off
to be let go
to lose one’s job
to be fired
to be got rid of
to be booted out
to be given the boot
to get the sack
to be sacked
to be given one’s marching orders
to get the ax/axe

These homely expressions still appear in headlines:

Pentagon gives pink slips to thousands of soldiers, including active-duty officers

Digital strategy to axe tens of thousands of central government jobs

Thousands of Woolworths staff face sack in Christmas week

Thousands of Doctors Fired by United Healthcare

However, when it comes to carefully worded announcements issued by people doing the firing, today’s reader must exercise advanced skills of textual interpretation.

Here are some of the ways firing people is described by public relations officers:
realigning the workforce
reallocating resources
focusing on involuntary attrition
rightsizing the company
offering unpaid leave with the option to pursue new employment
eliminating redundancy
smart-sizing the company
redeploying workers
rewiring for growth
eliminating positions
rethinking our future
adjusting to shifts in demand
rebalancing human capital
re-engineering
simplifying
streamlining
going in another direction

And my personal favorite: decruiting.

decruit (verb): to remove people working for an organization from their jobs because they are no longer needed.

Clearly modeled on the word recruit, this poor little misshapen invention is already being used without scare quotes:

the phenomenon of companies announcing their various intentions to decruit vast numbers of people. –Stanley Bing, Fortune.

Teach leaders what they must know to decruit workers when necessary. –from a brochure for a business leader workshop sponsored by Penn State.

Let go of the unalterable agents. If you can’t change their work habits, then change their work place. Decruit them. Let them go. –“Tips to Lead Your Company to Success,” Miami Association of Realtors.

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17 Responses to “Euphemisms for Job Loss”

  • Nancy R.

    The first list, the traditional euphemisms, are all from the sad perspective of the job loser. The second list, the glossy circumlocutions, are positive-sounding and beneficial to the employers.
    As for “decruit,” it is ghastly, and autocorrect hates it, too.

  • Bill

    When I was laid off last summer a PR euphemism I heard is not on your list: restructuring. Personally, I like to think I was shitcanned, but that’s not suitable for many publications.

  • Rosemary T.

    When I was “let go” last summer I preferred to tell my friends that I got canned. It’s much closer to the straightforward “fired.”

  • Rich Wheeler

    When Democrats took over in 2009, the defense industry had to lay off tens of thousands of aerospace workers because North Korea, Iran, Red China, and the former Soviet Union were going to suddenly love us. (Five years and hundreds of job applications later, I have yet to find full-time, permanent work.) The second list should include “Reduction in Force” (RIF) and the first list should include “RIF’ed.”

  • venqax

    Dehiring is one I encountered for the first time just last week. If dehiring means getting rid of people who work for you, then by association decruiting must mean telling people who don’twork for you that you don’t want them to. If you really wanted active decruiting, I guess you could go to job fairs with that message

  • Dale A Wood

    Fired has the very negative connotation of being dismissed for bad behavior and/rotten performance on the job. E.g. embezzlement, assault, vandalism, insubordination, theft, rudeness to customers, etc.
    It is unfortunate that so many people do not know the vile connotation of “to be fired”.
    DAW

  • Dale A Wood

    Punch your boss in the schnozz, and then you get fired.
    “Do it” with the boss’s daughter in the cloakroom, and then you get fired.
    DAW

  • Andy Knoedler

    Like Rich Wheeler, I remember the term “reduction in force” from working for a defense contractor years ago. People who were fired were “riffed.” In my current job, I’ve heard that firing done in past years was called “surplussing.” However, these days the company hangs on to employees and nothing is said officially if someone gets “canned.” It’s not that unusual a term. Checking on Google, I see it has over 80k hits.

  • venqax

    Agreeing with Andy Knoedler, as far as I know, RIF started as a federal govt term (acronym) and I remember it being used as far back as the 1970s. It was a noun and a verb; people feared a rif that might be coming, and no one wanted to get rif-ed in the process. Personally , I’ve never heard it outside of govt circles but I’m not at all surprised if it’s spread to much wider use. To DAW’s point (I think) the connotation of getting rif-ed or riffed was similar to getting laid off in the private sector, which has a more blameless implication, as opposed to getting fired which implied some lapse in performance. A RIF was an overall policy, like a lay-off, as opposed to something targeted at an individual.

    @DAW: You did specify cloakroom,yes?

  • Dale A Wood

    LOL, I just used “cloakroom” to use an old-fashioned word. You could get fired for doing it with the boss’s daughter or WIFE in the boss’s office, in the broom closet, in the boss’s limousine, or doing it with the boss’s husband, son, or brother, or sister.
    The possibilities for misconduct on the job are vast!

  • Dale A Wood

    If you get laid off or RIF’ed, then you can collect unemployment compensation- good.
    If you get fired, then you have been discharged for despicable behavior, and you cannot collect unemployment pay. You have brought the problem upon yourself, and you can be punished for that – bad.
    DAW

  • Andy Knoedler

    Dale Wood has employed a very interesting word — “cloakroom.” In the U.S. there are half bathrooms to be used by guests; in the U.K. they have cloakrooms to serve the same purpose.

  • Dale A Wood

    Oh, I have always lived in the U.S.A., with visits to neighboring countries. So, I fmeant a room in older buildings that was made for storing overcoats, cloaks, raincoats, snow boots, etc. Sometimes, there is even a sofa in a cloakroom – great for private conversations and even “messing around” with the opposite sex! With the risk of being spotted by supervisors.
    Of course, some might just want to join in on the fun.

  • Lisa

    @Dale: ‘”messing around” with the opposite sex’ is not PC anymore. 🙂 There are people in jobs who mess around with people of their own sex too. 🙂 Of course messing around in the cloakroom with supervisors who want to join in, just makes it a free-for-all! lol

  • Dale A Wood

    LOL, Lisa:
    I used “messing around” this time just in case there were readers who didn’t know what “doing it” meant. Of course, homosexual relations in the cloakroom or the broom closet are included, too, LOL.
    The whole thing about the cloakroom was supposed to be a Very Small joke, but it attracted attention.

  • Lisa

    @Dale: LOLOLOL!! I would think everyone knows what ‘doing it’ means! 🙂

    And I’m glad to see you’re an equal opportunity messing-around-in-cloakroom-broom closet type of guy! =)

  • Dale A Wood

    I was wondering about people in remote parts of Asia, Africa, and Oceana who don’t know about American, British, and Canadian slang. They might ask, “Do what? ” to the expression “do it”.
    DAW

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