Layoff like a boss: Be Less Like Wet Seal and More Like Queen Latifah

be like queen latifah

What does Wet Seal, a fashion retailer for teens and young women, have in common with renaissance woman Queen Latifah?

Unfortunately they both recently had to let a large number (or all) of their employees go.

BUT the way they handled their situations was totally different.

In late November it was announced that after two seasons, the Queen Latifah show was coming to an end. Latifah graciously thanked her staff and moved on to her next project (playing Bessie Smith in a new HBO biopic). Oh, and did I forget to mention she also paid her laid off staff through the holidays with money out of her own pocket?

make it rain

I don’t know Queen Latifah (only in my head), but I’m sure she knows what a huge accomplishment it is to start as a black female rapper in the 90s, only to end up broadcasting across the country during daytime television. So, rather than feeling ashamed and going into hiding, she picked up the pieces and moved on with her head high, while still recognizing the people that helped make her dream a reality. That is a true leader.

On the flip side, Wet Seal recently closed two-thirds of it’s stores, leaving thousands of employees without jobs. Of course layoffs happen, and it’s unfortunate, but Wet Seal employees weren’t just disappointed, they were deceived. The company lied about the fact that they were closing the stores, and didn’t allow them to seek other means of employment. And how do I know this? Employees at several locations actually placed signs in store windows letting shoppers know about the surprise layoffs.

wet seal boycott

Now, looking at both situations, who do you think handled their layoffs better?

Queen Latifah of course.


Employees at both Wet Seal and the Queen Latifah Show were given bad news about their jobs, but unlike Wet Seal, Latifah showed her appreciation for her team. She recognized their efforts and even paid them when she didn’t have to. This led to awesome press and great respect for her. So although her endeavor failed she still came out on top, loved by everyone. In contrast Wet Seal shadily dropped the bomb and disappeared after lying to employees about the situation, which they are currently paying for in bad press and boycotts. A double loss for them.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]So for any lady boss reading this now, if you have to let people go – which you eventually will – be sure to do so graciously.[/pullquote] It hurts to be laid off and it’s devastating letting people go, especially for financial reasons, but make sure your employees leave with a great image of you. You don’t have to pay them out of pocket, we don’t all have Queen Latifah’s millions, but with your words of appreciation (and some kind of severance pay) you can surely make them feel like a million bucks.


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  • Jacque,

    Upon reading the title I had NO clue what they were going to have in common!! I haven’t even thought about Wet Seal in so long I wasn’t sure what to expect… But this post is excellent!!!

    Wow!! Great information, and I’m glad I’m caught up to speed. Thank you!! This post will definitely put a lot of things into perspective for people in the long run.

  • Thanks for posting this Jacque. I was astonished to hear how Wet Seal treated their employees after they closed their stores. I believe it’s important to value your employees even when things are rough. Queen Latifah did a great thing by paying her employees while making her movie, but not all companies have the means to pay off thousands after they close their stores. Queen Latifah also did not own multiple stores or have thousands of employees. She was able to use her own resources to pay them. I believe these two situations are very different. Wet Seal should not have treated their customers this way. I think this is the lesson we can take from this blog post.