Return To Sender : Planet Money Return to sender e-mails are another indication of a layoff.
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Return To Sender

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There are certain rituals that come with a layoff, like cleaning out your desk, giving back your security badge and that awkward goodbye lunch. Bryan sends another one to add to that list -- the disabling of your e-mail account:

This is a personal indicator that can only happen in these modern times. More and more, when I send emails to friends at their company address, I receive one of these as attached. This is often the first indicator that someone you know has been laid off at a company. Who would have thought that this technical error message would indicate someone's misfortune?

In this case, my friend was working for an investment bank in Tokyo. Layoffs, or RIF's (Reductions In Force), in investment banks that I know of are swift and as scripted as possible while still trying to maintain some sort of respect. As you are brought into a room to be informed of your fate, a process has begun behind the scenes that disables your computer access, email accounts, and building access. By the time you leave the room, all the tools you did your job with are taken away through this process that reminds me of the 1960's television drama "Branded". I've experienced both sides of this process when I had to downsize a department in 2001 and then most recently when I lost my position.