Posts tagged with: layoffs

How not to handle mass layoffs

The publishing where I work on a full-time/part-time basis laid off nine employees last week. That may not seem like a lot when compared to the massive layoffs taking place across the country. But in our fairly small office, it’s made a significant dent in the size of our workforce.

The higher-ups at my company make a lot of questionable decisions. They ended the layoff drama with yet another.

Before announcing the layoffs, management called workers into one of two conference rooms. One was the lucky room, the one where the people who weren’t fired went. The other, of course, was the unlucky one.

After management broke the news, the folks from the lucky conference room started heading back to their desks. That’s when they were stopped. More management people told them to leave their floor until the people who were fired could pack up their things and get out.

This, of course, prevented employees who in many cases had worked with each other for 10 years or more from saying an official “goodbye.” And it was all done to avoid any possible emotional scenes.

Here’s some news for management: When you fire employees, people are going to get emotional. You can’t just pretend that the axed workers never existed. Management, probably out of their own guilt for not firing the right (read, the salespeople who let everything fall apart in the first place) people, wanted the job cuts to happen quickly and painlessly.

Well, there’s nothing painless about job cuts. And thank goodness for that. Sometimes I think it’s the only thing preventing management from making even more callous decisions than it aleady makes.

Your office is not a home. Keep the personal stuff away

Last year, I brought my two sons to the publishing office where I work a full-time/part-time job. It was the first time either of them had been there, and upon seeing my rather spartan desk, my older son — he was 9 at the time — asked me why I didn’t have any pictures of him or his brother at my desk.

At the time, I told him that I’m not here all that much — I only go to the office one day a week, and work from home the others — so I didn’t need to fill my space with photos.

But there’s another reason: No office is home. And I don’t want to treat it like it  is.

I was reminded of this yesterday. Like all publishers, the company where I work is struggling these days. To make ends meet, the company fired several employees. That’s always painful. It’s even more awkward when the fired employees are back at their desks, packing up their personal items.

If I ever get fired? I’ll walk out the door without hesitation. I don’t have any personal items at my desk.

The ax fell at work today

I just got off a conference call this morning with the powers-that-be at the publishing company where I work on a full-time/part-time basis. Like all publishers, this company, which covers real estate news, is struggling. So this morning, the company had its first round of firings.

I survived the cut. That’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that some very talented people are out on the streets now. And finding a job at magazines or newspapers is not exactly an easy task these days.

At the same time, our now reduced editorial staff will be working harder for no extra money. I hate doing extra work with no corresponding extra pay. However, I feel that complaining about that now would seem insensitive since I’m still employed and so many others are not.

The bosses handling the firings, of course, did their usual stumblebum act. At one point, one of the bosses mentioned that these moves might increase camaraderie at our company. Yes, there’s no better way to increase camaraderie than by firing a boatload of employees.

Many of our sale staff survived the cut. I suspect that’s because most of them operate 100 percent on commission. Yes, they’re doing a horrible job and not bringing in any ads — that’s why we’re in this mess right now — but they’re not costing the company any money. In fact, the one salesperson that was let go was making half commission/half salary. What a surprise.

As usual, I’m not exactly happy with the vision of my bosses. I am happy to still have this job. But I will certainly be looking for a replacement full-time/part-time gig, to supplement my other freelance writing, just in case.

I advise everyone in every industry to be on the lookout for possible opportunities, too. I wouldn’t trust that your job is any safer than mine.

When contemplating layoffs, don’t take off for San Diego — Especially when it’s 14 degrees in Chicago

Not to be overly surly, and I do appreciate the fact that I still have a job — jobs, actually, if you count all my freelance writing — but sometimes the bosses at my main publishing job make me wish I wasn’t some 25 years or so from retirement.

Here’s what has me vexed: Last week, my immediate boss told me that he was going to have to fire some writers if ad sales at our magazines didn’t pick up. I’m the most senior writer at our company, and he wanted to lay out his plans to me before he took any action.

I asked him if he considered laying off any of the salespeople, you know, the people who aren’t selling the ads, the people who have actually made it so that our profits are disappearing. He said it’s the market’s fault, not the salesmen’s fault. What he didn’t say was this: Our salesmen are paid on commission. If they don’t sell any ads, they’re not costing our company any money. Our writers, of course, are paid on salary. Cutting them does save money. This doesn’t seem fair, but what can you do?

This week, I came into the office to do some editing of our latest magazine — I only come into the office one day a week, thankfully — when I learned that my boss had flown off to San Diego for a conference.

Hmmm…. I’m sure it’s not 14 degrees in California, like it is here in Chicago today. I’m also sure that my boss’ trip to San Diego wasn’t free. In a time of extreme cost-cutting at our company, this seems like a bit of an unnecessary trip, especially since these conferences never, ever result in any new business.

Oh, well … consider it a great example of how to lower already low morale.

How not to keep your job

Things are tough at one of the publishers for which I write. Like most of the publishing industry, the magazines it produces are getting smaller and smaller. That happens when formerly steady advertisers either go out of business or slash their budgets.

You’d think, then, that there’d be a sense of urgency. And there is among many of the sales staff. When I’m in the office, I hear them calling potential advertiser after potential advertiser, hoping to squeeze out at least a quarter-page ad.

But others? I hear them on the phone, too, discussing fantasy football ratings. Or their vacation plans. Or comlaining about their significant other.

I understand that you can’t shut off your personal life completely from 9 to 5. But these are sales staffers. The bosses can measure exactly how useful they are to a company by how many ads they bring in. You’d think they’d be desperately calling every potential advertiser they can think of.

I have the unsettling feeling that many of these sales staffers won’t be around much longer. And, I hate to say it, if they do get the axe? They have no  one to blame but themselves.

A depressing way to stay employed: Be a brownnose?

We all have our own strategies for staying employed. Some put in extra hours. Some turn in the best work they possibly can and hope that their bosses notice. Others work for themselves, or freelance for as many diverse clients as they can, seeing protection from the uncertainty that reigns in the job market today.

Then there are the people like my friend: He becomes a brownnose, wherever he’s working. This, he says, makes it far harder for any of his bosses to fire him.

Here’s how it works: My friend will immediately begin complimenting his superiors. He’ll buddy up to them. He’ll chat with them as often as possible. Basically, he’ll work his butt off to become their friend.

He’s not a bad worker, but he’s not necessarily the best, at any company for which he works. But he always goes out of his way to become one of the most liked.

Does this work? For him, it does. But my friend has one of those personalities: He manages to make everyone he talks to feel like the most important person in the world. For someone who’s more withdrawn, who’s not so well-graced in the ins and outs of socializing, this approach probably won’t work.

But my friend has never been fired or laid off. He’s left companies on his terms.

So — sigh — brownnosing might be the way to go, if you can pull it off.

The unhappiest place on Earth? Whever you work

The ingenious promoters behind Walt Disney Land, and Walt Disney World, I suppose, have long touted their Magic Kingdom as the happiest place on Earth. Well, I’ve been to both Disneys — in California and Florida — and I can say, I’ve been happier at other places. ‘Course, I kept imagining all those dollar bills flying out of my wallet like so many gliding Dumbo elephants, never to be seen again.

That’s a bit of a digression. But I bring up the whole “happiest place on Earth” thing because I once knew many people who considered their workplace that Magic Kingdom. They felt fulfilled as they completed projects, boosted their companies’ bottom lines and worked their way up the corporate ladder.

Today, though, I don’t meet quite as many people who would describe their workplaces as happy places.

And why woud they? I know at the publishing company where I work a full-time/part-time job, the threat of job cuts hangs above everybody. The salesman who sits in the cubicle next to mine spends most of his time sighing and quoting the dismal news from the Wall Street Journal. My immediate boss comes over to my cubicle on his way to his frequent smoking breaks to fill me in on the latest trade magazine to either go under or cut back on its publishing schedule.

It’s damn depressing. At least I only go into the office two or three times a month. Working from home is healthier for the soul.

It’s unfortunate but in these tough times, I advise everyone out there to find a new “happiest place on Earth.” Home, maybe? Because it’s going to a long, long time before the workplace becomes that land of promise again.

The end of the no-layoff policy?

I’ve long preached to the workaholics in my life that they’re wasting their lives by devoting so much time and energy to their employers. I always tell them the same thing, “Your employer doesn’t care about you. They’ll drop you in a second if they need to to keep themselves operating.”

I don’t advise people not to do a good job for the employers, of course. But I do recommend that they not become slaves to their jobs. There’s no payoff in that.

I was reminded of all this by a recent Wall Street Journal story that focused on the waning days of the no-layoffs policy. There have been companies out there that have pledged not to lay anyone off, even during tough times. Apparently, the number of them has been shrinking rather steadily.

The Wall Street Journal story highlights the case of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The company in its 51-year history had never laid off a U.S. employee, according to the Journal story. Well, that streak is coming to an unfortunate end. Enterprise recently announced that it will fire 1,000 of its 75,000 employees.

So, again, I’ll repeat myself: It’s fine to work hard for your employer, but don’t kill yourself for your career. It can be gone in a moment’s notice, and if you have nothing else of importance in your life, then what will you do?