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Jewish World Review
July 24, 2009
/ 3 Menachem-Av 5769
A lay off by any other name
The only thing harder than keeping a job these days is to lose one straight up. People are getting fired, cut and canned, but businesses can't bring themselves to say so.
When a company in the Pacific Northwest that makes scanners for supermarkets cut 89 jobs, the CEO described it as a "permanent reduction in force" and "a restructuring of the company's global presence."
If I was one of the people losing my job, I'd hope the president would have enough stripes in his bar code to tell me I was being laid off as opposed to some blah, blah about restructuring a global presence.
When Caterpillar chopped 22,000 jobs, the chief executive said, "It is now clear that we need to sharply lower our production and costs."
I would like it if the boss man stood on a backhoe loader and said, "This is the lowest day of my life." I would appreciate it if his chin quivered, he choked up and had to excuse himself to the men's room.
American Express announced a "reengineering initiative" that would generate an $800 million cost benefit. It all sounded fabulous until you read the reengineering included "a reduction of staffing levels."
The husband's company has made round after round of layoffs, the most recent being last week. He wondered if this round might happen like the preliminaries in American Idol. People who go into one room are told they get to keep their jobs and people who go into another room are greeted by Simon Cowell and given one box and one hour to clear out.
When IBM laid off more than 1,600 employees in the Global Businesses Service Unit, they called it a "large round of anticipated cuts." I could live with that, a cut is a classy way to go.
I was laid off of one of my first newspaper jobs at a small weekly many black and white broadsheets ago. An hour before deadline the publisher announced that the paper was going under due to the rising cost of newsprint and the Canadian paper mill strike.
One of the pressmen turned beet red, a couple of the older ladies cried and the bookkeeper slammed file drawers. By noon everyone had made it to the break room to say unkind things about the publisher, particularly noting his pasty skin, beady eyes and red hair.
In truth, the owner had been direct and honest, which is the best you can do in a bad situation.
Microsoft and Google both had the gigabytes to call their layoffs layoffs.
Nokia announced it would be "scaling" sales and marketing to "match the pruned portfolio and global consumer demand." With all the reductions and pruning going on you don't know if executives are stirring a sauce on the stovetop or cutting back lilac bushes.
Just once I'd like to hear a CEO of a mismanaged company say, "I am standing here today because we have been greedy hogs slobbering at the trough. We pimped out our industry to pointy-headed business types who didn't know squat about our product and our market. We took bad risks, incurred ridiculous debt and now you're going to pay for our foolishness."
A speech like that wouldn't really help if you were one being downsized, reduced or pruned but it sure would be refreshing to hear.
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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Catching Christmas" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.
© 2009, Lori Borgman