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The Layoff Letters

The layoffs came like a storm, swift and devastating. It was a Tuesday when the first memo hit our inboxes, the subject line deceptively neutral, "Staffing Adjustments." But there was nothing neutral about the contents. By the end of the week, a third of our department would be gone. As an HR manager, it fell on me to wield the axe. It's a dirty part of the job, the part you never get used to, no matter how the higher-ups try to spin it as 'necessary cuts' or 'strategic realignment.'

The Layoff Letters


I had drafted dozens of those impersonal termination letters, but this time was different. This time I had to send one to Mark. I'd known him since my first day at the company. He was the guy who made everyone laugh, who remembered your birthday, who made the office less of a machine. We weren’t close friends, but he was one of the good ones. Seeing his name on the 'cut list' twisted my gut.

I sent the email with a heavy heart, the standard corporate spiel about 'valuing his contributions' but 'having to make tough decisions.' It was hollow, and I felt hollow sending it.

Not thirty minutes later, Mark replied. His email was anything but standard.


From: Mark

To: Me

Subject: Re: Staffing Adjustments

"Really? After eight years, this is what I get? An email? Where’s the decency? I guess loyalty counts for nothing. Don’t bother replying. I’ve read enough corporate BS for a lifetime."


His anger leaped off the screen, a wild, raw thing that matched my own feelings about this corporate purge. I stared at the screen for a long time before I replied. Not as the HR manager, but as me, someone who hated this just as much.


From: Me

To: Mark

Subject: Re: Re: Staffing Adjustments

"Mark, I'm sorry. I truly am. This isn’t how I wanted things to go. I'm just the messenger, and believe me, I don’t like the message any more than you do. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know."


I didn't expect him to respond, but he did. His next email was less angry but more defeated. He wrote about the shock, the betrayal, and the fear of not knowing what comes next. He was 42, had two kids, a mortgage. This job was supposed to be secure, a port in a storm. Now, it was like being thrown into the open sea.

Over the next few weeks, we kept emailing. It started with me offering to help him with his resume, some job leads, a reference letter—anything to soften the blow. But our correspondence grew into something more. He would share his daily struggles and fears, and slowly, I began sharing mine.

The office felt different. The halls were quieter. Survivors of the layoffs walked around like they were treading on glass, fearful they might be next. I felt isolated, too, stuck between my role and my resentment towards the company. Talking to Mark became a lifeline.

One day, about a month after the layoffs, he sent an email that wasn’t about job hunts or unfairness. It was about a small victory—his first freelance gig, small but hopeful.


From: Mark

To: Me

Subject: Finally Some Good News!

"Got a small project! It’s not much, but it’s a start. Couldn’t have done it without your pep talks. How about we celebrate? Coffee, on me, for once?"


We met at a coffee shop near the office, a neutral ground thick with the smell of espresso and pastries. Seeing him was different from reading his words. He was thinner, a bit worn around the edges, but there was a spark in his eyes that hadn't been there in his emails. We talked for hours, not about layoffs or job searches, but about everything else—movies, books, the city’s relentless pace. It was liberating.

As the meeting ended, and we walked out into the cool evening air, Mark stopped and turned to me. "Thanks for not giving up on me," he said earnestly. "Most people would have."

"I couldn’t," I replied, surprised by the truth of my words. "You remind me that we’re more than our jobs, more than what they reduce us to."

We parted ways with a promise to keep in touch, not just as ex-colleagues, but as friends who had seen each other through a storm. And as I watched him walk away, I felt a small flicker of hope, for both of us, that no matter how bad the storm gets, there’s always a way through it. And sometimes, you find an unexpected ally in the chaos.


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