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You’re Fired

When it comes to announcing severed ties, no one beats HR creativity.

Still Crazy After All These Years, released by Paul Simon in 1975, was a huge success at the time. One of the songs on the album, “50 ways to leave your lover,” stunned me. Call me unimaginative, but my farewell repertoire seemed so conventional.

As I grew older, I found that companies announced their breakups in original ways, a treasure trove of euphemisms that piqued my youthful curiosity.

Since there seems to be no limit to the creativity of HR managers who strive to make layoffs pragmatic and lighthearted, I’ve compiled a list of such euphemisms — 33 noun phrases and 46 verb forms. 

Here’s what I’ve got.

Noun Phrases

  1. career alternative enhancement program (Chrysler)
  2. career change opportunity (Clifford of Vermont)
  3. career transition program (General Motors)
  4. constructive discharge
  5. constructive dismissal
  6. early retirement opportunity
  7. elimination of employment security policy (Pacific Bell)
  8. employee transition
  9. end of a trial period
  10. excessing
  11. force management program (AT&T)
  12. indefinite idling
  13. involuntary attrition
  14. involuntary career event
  15. involuntary separation from payroll (Bell Labs)
  16. involuntary severance (Digital Equipment Corp)
  17. modernization program
  18. normal payroll adjustment (Wal-Mart)
  19. personnel realignment
  20. personnel surplus reduction
  21. planning of the workforce
  22. profit improvement plan (PIP)
  23. realignment
  24. reduction in force (riffing) or RIF (Newsweek)
  25. reduction in personnel plan, or RIPP
  26. reduction in staff
  27. release of resources (Bank of America)
  28. repositioning (Stanford University)
  29. reshaping (National Semiconductor)
  30. skill-mix adjustment
  31. surplus
  32. vocation relocation
  33. workforce imbalance correction

Verb Phrases

  1. buy out (employee) contracts
  2. decline a contract extension
  3. decruit
  4. defund
  5. dehire
  6. derecruit
  7. de-select
  8. destaff
  9. discharge
  10. discontinue
  11. disemploy
  12. displace
  13. downscale
  14. downsize
  15. free up for the future
  16. free to pursue your interests
  17. furlough
  18. lateralize
  19. let go
  20. make internal efficiencies
  21. make redundant
  22. manage down
  23. negotiate a departure
  24. outplace
  25. outsource
  26. rationalize the workforce
  27. reduce duplication (Tandem Computers)
  28. reduce headcount
  29. re-engineer the staff
  30. regain your life
  31. release
  32. relieve of duties
  33. reorganize (or re-org)
  34. reshuffle
  35. restructure
  36. retrench
  37. rightsize
  38. scale back
  39. select out
  40. separate
  41. spend more time with the family
  42. streamline
  43. strengthen global effectiveness (Proctor & Gamble)
  44. unassign
  45. uninstall
  46. waive

If you can think of other euphemisms for firing an employee, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add them to the lists.