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What Happened to Jay Could Happen to You

Editorial Team

Jay Leno tells Parade he has the new job jitters. No big surprise.
What is still surprising is that NBC fired him from The Tonight Show when he was No. 1 to make room for “the future” of late night, Conan O’Brien.

What type of boss fires the strongest performers, especially during an economic crisis? It’s a hotly-debated question — since the 15 million Americans who’ve been pink-slipped are hardly slackers.
Sure, there may be some among them, but unemployment is an equal opportunity offender.
If a guy like Leno, whose new 10 p.m. show kicks off Monday on NBC, can get the ax — even one that was long planned — what does it mean for other superstars within their organizations?

One silver lining: getting rid of the top dog makes it easier for those waiting in the wings to shine.
The team at ABC’s Nightline, for example, has seen its ratings soar in the wake of the late-night shake up.
Do you know anyone who’s been laid off whose performance was so strong that it’s left you scratching your head? Or, on the flip side, tell us about someone who’s found a way to thrive in a challenging climate because the opportunity presented itself?


  1. Linda S Froiland

    Our country is always about the next big thing. It’s really too bad that long standing commitment and the ability to provide an employer with the results is no longer an acceptable commodity. Shame on NBC for being so careless and thoughtless. I never watch Conan in fact I can’t stand the guy, hoever I know he has a younger audience. Target has done the same thing, they want me to buy my groceries, bedding, household goods at their store but their fashions are for twelve year olds. So sad. I never go to Target any more either.

  2. Cheryl Palmer, Executive Career Coach

    I facilitated a job search group for executives at a large outplacement firm, and it was pretty routine for new members to come to the group in shock because they had been laid off. They couldn’t understand how they could be at the top of their game and yet be let go.
    Over time I came to realize that the issue wasn’t performance; it was cultural fit. For the most part, these top performers didn’t fit in with the cultural of the organization, and that was why they were let go. It became clear as the group members told their stories that there were conflicts with the boss prior to their being let go. What was really important for these executives was to be able to focus their job search efforts on companies where there was a good cultural fit.

  3. Marie

    Well I was laid off 16 months ago! I was a marketing manger for a national homebuilder and was most definitely a strong employee, all the c & d employees were laid off in the first 2 rounds. I made it thru the first 3 lay offs and was let go in the 4th round. In the 4th lay off all the heads of the departments were let go as well. Down-sizing and merging is what they called it. Actually they only left the cheap labor who were strong employees.
    I am a single mother with a college degree and I’ve been working at the management level for over 15 years. It has been difficult to find a position since I have a higher pay scale. Yet even though I as willing to work in a lower level and take less pay employers are unwilling to hire me for the fear that I will leave for something better or possibly take their position. You tell me what is wrong with that picture.
    I went to an interview with a health company supplier and one woman on the panel asked me why I was looking to change from homebuilding to healthcare…I’m sorry but I had to chuckle in the interview along with the other two panel members! She was in her early thirties and obviously completely unaware of the economic circumstance of our county! The other panel members explained to her that there were no jobs in the homebuilding industry.
    The real question is, why does she have a job? Why does any company continue to keep mediocre employees when there are so many superior people unemployed?
    The upside to all this…I am starting my own company. I will be creating jobs and my plan is to succeed!

  4. MFMorgan

    I have never read anywhere that Jay Leno was fired. Where is the evidence he was indeed fired? Was his contract not up and he chose to move-on to do something else? Not renewing his contract is not being fired. At least he knew when the contract was up and could make plans. Those of us who have lost are jobs, most likely learned when we walked in to work and were taken by surprise. And gee he has been paid enough money to where he really never has to work again?
    MF Morgan

  5. Geri Greene

    Jay handled this situation of being replaced while on top with more grace than anyone imaginable. NBC’s peacock has to have egg all over its face, as Conan does not have the talent to carry a show. NBC also is catering to younger audiences as I see The Today Show slip into segments that mimic MTV – a sorry decision as it does cause me to flip more and more to GMA or The Early Show which are a more calm property to begin my day. It is awkward to realize I am now considered one of “those” older viewers who do not matter and have really silly segments as a part of what used to have a quality show. I look forward to having Jay Leno back on to present entertainment that is actually funny.

  6. Linda G

    I have to agree with MF Morgan, I’ve never read any where that he’s been fired. And even if he knew that his contract was not to be re-newed, he has the means to survive and the luxury of looking for a new opportunity worry free.

  7. BJ West

    This has to be the most ridiculous comparison I’ve heard. Fired is when they give you the axe, and you don’t get to come back. He’s still working with NBC, and I’m betting his salary did not decrease. Even if it did, he still has a paycheck from his “former” employer. He still has benefits, and he still has a job. Now you may want to call it a demotion, but I know what it is really like to be fired. THAT’S NOT IT! Your paycheck, your benefits and everything else you had goes out the window! I am sure there are a lot of your readers who would like to say they were “fired” under the same circumstances as Jay Leno.
    If your employer moves you to a different department, you haven’t been fired. Going from the “Tonight Show” to a prime time show is more like a department change. It’s not getting fired. Please don’t get the two mixed up. It’s an insult.

  8. debra

    He didn’t get fired. His contract was simply up.

  9. Anonymous

    p.s. This is my first comment..and last

  10. pippin

    I think it’s odd that you are calling it being fired. He really wasn’t fired and it is like you said in the blog – it was all planned ahead of time so how is this being “fired”? Not getting the reason for this article…..

  11. Jeanetta Alexander

    Jay Leno announced he was resigning as host of the Late Night Show three (3) years before he decided. He had three years to prepare and put a new game plan in motion,…. by his OWN CHOICE.. Most people DO NOT have a choice in the matter when they are fired. Jay CHOOSE to embark on a new career.

  12. JBA

    TORY…..PLEASE….ME::: I have always been told to dress for success, put your best foot forward, but in the market today, it keeps hurting me. I have attended (2) two of Tory’s Women For Hire Conferences, and the first one Tory meet with me and gave me such encouragement by stating, oh I can look at you and tell you will be hired in no time, just the way you carry yourself. It has been (8) EIGHT LONG months and no job yet. Everyone LOVES ME.., Wants me to be their friend and are crazy enough to say you just don’t look like you need a job. They state you come in here in your nice designer suit, smiling looking like a million bucks, no one wants you coming in and taking their job…Tory I don’t know how to handle this, am I alone in this insane attitude the some employers have? Please, Please, Please help me soon..I am trying to stay in my home but it’s getting…no it has gotten very hard….Please HELP TORY.

  13. lynette

    For NBC to bring Conan Obrien to the Tonight Show was a big mistake. Conan cannot carry l.A.’s Audience. Jay Leno was sucessful as the host he blended style and had varied guests and interesting topics. Jay Leno will be just fine with his new show. I liked Conan in New York and I think he has a greater appeal there.

  14. EG

    Actually, the fact that this happened to Jay is an eye opener for everyone. Top performers everywhere are being axed — it doesn’t make sense. Although business thinks they are making long term strategic decisions — they are really making short sighted decisions based on what they think the future will hold. Why not keep on keeping on with a good thing — until it’s not a good thing anymore? Jay, people loved you on late night, so wrong decision — but the good news is that those who aren’t late nighters will get a chance to experience the fun. Good luck in your new endeavor.

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