Layoff stigma stings: Why Gen Z workers are less likely to share that they lost a job


By Jennifer Alsever

The stigma of getting laid off from a job is lessening, but a good chunk of people still don’t tell the world—or prospective employers—about getting a pink slip.


Only 20% of people who lost their jobs shared the information with their future employer, according to a new survey by ZipRecruiter of 2,000 people who recently lost their jobs. Most shared the news with their families (83%) and nearly two-thirds shared it with their friends. But in a world where every moment of our lives is shared on social media, just 11% posted online about it. At least 8% of respondents said they told no one about their new unemployment.

The stigma is weakening, says Julia Pollak, chief economist for ZipRecruiter, because 20 million people experienced layoffs in a single month during the pandemic. “We’ve all had this collective experience.”

Still, some companies use metrics to cut the bottom-performing 10% of their workforce in layoffs, and candidates are aware of the lingering bias. Younger workers ages 18 to 24 were less likely to share the news, according to ZipRecruiter data shared with Fast Company. Only 14% told employers, while 57% told friends, and three-quarters told family. They’re also far more likely than other generations to say they’d have a better job if not for the layoff, and nearly a third believe employers worry the layoff is a signal of poor performance.


Older workers were a lot more open: A quarter of baby boomers told future employers, more than two-thirds told their friends, 86% told their families, and a third told their professional network about the layoff. Just 14% think potential employers worry the layoff is due to poor performance.

Valid concerns

Omissions to employers about a job loss is understandable, says Pollak. Talking about layoffs puts job candidates in a position of explaining rather than showing their strengths. When interviewees appear comfortable in their current job and just browsing, employers know they must top whatever they already have. Revealing the layoff could make the job seeker appear more desperate.

“A key dynamic at the negotiating table is how much pressure a job seeker is under to accept the terms that the employer offers,” says Pollak. 

Layoff stigma stings: Why Gen Z workers are less likely to share that they lost a job

Those newly unemployed aren’t necessarily desperate. Laid-off workers can afford not to work for 3.3 months, on average, and they’re getting rehired quickly. In decades past, a layoff that came in economies with higher unemployment rates of 6% to 8% typically meant you could lose 1.4 to 2.8 years of earnings. Today’s unemployment rate of 3.4% is the lowest in 50 years, and more than half of the people who lost their jobs in December or January already landed new gigs by the end of January.

Fast Company