Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Layoff Snafus

Have you ever been in a situation where a companie's layoff plan went very wrong, and some funny (at least in retrospect) results came about

for instance

I was at one company where a couple of layoffs happened and it was always done by first disabling the Sackee's network connection. So after that anytime something went wrong with the network- email down, cable disconnected the sackee would freak out that a layoff was coming, and all work would stop for a few hours while everyone checked their lan connections and went to find the manager

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, May 01, 2003

LOL!

There was a note on dilbert.com once that a company had an impending layoff, but didn't want to tell people who was being laid off until "layoff day" so they'd all keep working.

Except the new post-layoff company phonebooks came out a week beforehand, and about 10% of the names were missing. Of cousre, those people didn't show up for the rest of the week...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

My sister's old company would lay people off on Fridays.  They would be escorted to their desk where they had 10 minutes to pack up a box and move out.  Anything they didn't take would supposedly be shipped to them (minus what the company claimed was theirs and others took of course).

After several series of this over a short time span, every Friday before noon everyone would pack up their belongings into a box for the rest of the day.

Now THAT is a positive work environment.

Lou
Thursday, May 01, 2003

I watched a story on Kodak in Rochester, NY on the news.  The employees found out as they swiped their card on the way in.  A security guard would pull them aside, take their id card and hand them a box with the stuff from their desk packed in it.

-- Talk about stressful mornings especially, if your key just doesn't work for some other reason...

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Ha! yep, I've seen this -- one previous employer did a couple of rounds of layoffs, and much like a previous poster's story, the "MIS" dept got first word, so the people being dumped had their email accounts disabled and dropped from the outlook address book.

As word of this got around, the rest of the company literally blew the entire day scanning through the lengthy outlook address book to see whose names were missing, plus the inevitable email conversations that ensued over who's gone, etc. Horrible for morale.

They would have done much better to handle it like a later company I worked for that had a company meeting and said outright basically that "here's the deal, folks... here's our situation... here's what we're going to do about it... and here's the list of folks who are going to be let go." It was hard, but at least the corporate leadership stood there face to face with the people whose lives they were changing -- they took responsibility for it.

After all, it's not like it's going to be a secret who got dumped when 'the day' arrives. Plus, it at least shows some balls on the part of the corporate leadership that they stand up face to face with the people they're dumping and tell them to their face. Much better than the cowardly, gutless, bureaucratic way of handling any number of things you see in so many civilian organizations.

anonQAguy
Thursday, May 01, 2003

A company that I worked for had the accounts girl come in on the weekend to write out everyones redundancy cheques. Including her own.

Damian
Thursday, May 01, 2003

"After all, it's not like it's going to be a secret who got dumped when 'the day' arrives. "

Actually, nobody knew I was laid off unless the saw me being escorted out of the building. One of my co-workers figured it out because my breakfast was still sitting there, uneaten, by mid afternoon.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, May 02, 2003

One place I was working for laid off most of a customer service department, then realized that the number of angry customers who werent getting their phone calls answered was piling up, then REHIRED half of the laid off employees again, and ended up paying them about 50% more (since they were rehired as temp staff)

No prizes for guessing exactly how loyal or motivated the rehired employees were... most of the time, they'd just look for another place on company time..

yet more horror stories
Friday, May 02, 2003

marktaw -

your example demonstrates basically what I meant. Even if nobody gets any specific info, when somebody just doesn't show up anymore, the rest of the folks will put 2 and 2 together anyway, even if it takes a day or two.

Actually the sort of 'stealth layoff/firing' practice we're talking about is like a military unit that's being stalked by a clever sniper --- you're all walking through the bush, maintaining contact, then you turn around to where your buddy Joe was a second ago and he's not there. You didn't hear anything or see anything -- he just disappeared. (a clever sniper will work from the back forward so he can take out as many people as possible before folks get wise to him).

If the military unit is poorly trained and/or poorly disciplined, everybody just squats where they are and shivers in fear waiting to see if the next bullet is for them or not. That's what most civilian organizations do when this crap starts -- folks just hunker down and shiver, hoping it's over, hoping the next one isn't for them. Feeling guilty and relieved when the next bullet takes the guy next to them, but leaves them safe. They don't know when it's safe to come up for air again, either, since they don't really know when it's finally over -- till next time. Because once it's happened, they know it can happen again.

The difference, of course, is that the military unit, if they pull their heads out of their butts and take proper action, can counter-attack or call in for fire support to waste the sniper. Those options aren't open to the organization that's under fire, or its people. Of course, as I think about it, another big difference is that at least you know a sniper is from the enemy side -- in the civilian lay-off situation, the "sniper" is actually one of your own --theoretically, anyway.

Rant warning. The rest of this is just a rant, none of it directed at you, marktaw, or anyone else on this forum at all... Anyone not interested in a rant, bail out now.

still here?  well, I warned you... here goes.
Something that can make this talk of layoffs and how they're implemented  **really** ridiculous to think about is to realize that while individuals are shaking in their boots worrying about their jobs, in many larger corporations the senior-most corporate leadership is blithely pulling the flush lever on employee after employee. Often as not, it's so they can cow-tow to some Wall Street analyst who predicted some inane BS about how the company would do next quarter, so the corporate leadership forgets its mission and tries to meet the analysts predictions. Who's running the show, anyway? The CEO's or the Analysts?

Along with this nonsense, you have so many of the large company C-level leadership literally robbing their own companies blind -- see  http://www.fortune.com/fortune/careers/articles/0,15114,367903,00.html  if you just want to get disgusted over the way these supposed "leaders" feather their own beds while they shit down their people's necks.

I'm basically libertarian, I strongly believe people should operate on the profit motive, so I don't have any heartburn with a CEO making tons and tons of money, per se. I do have problems with them filling the role and getting the perqs of being a "leader", people treating them like their shit doesn't stink, etc. while they screw up and then spin the public relations to make it sound as though the employees (or the quantity of them at least) is the problem, and not their own shitty leadership. They need to take some damned responsibility for their own performance -- they should at least hold themselves to the same standards as they hold their own people!

One thing you learn in the Army, at least, is "the troops eat first". If you're in a leadership position in the Army, from squad leader to Commanding General, you make sure the troops are taken care of -- first. **You** are useless without your troops. Few things will tear a unit apart faster than for the troops to see that their superiors are not at least reasonably sharing their hardships and dangers.  If you're in charge, you'd better get your ass out there and lead a few missions and share the risk, discomfort, and hardships with your troops or you're not going to have any respect. Nor will you deserve any. If you sit in the rear all the time, comfortable safe and clean, getting plenty of sleep and regular hot meals, and send your troops out to do all the hard work all the time, then you're a filthy scum who doesn't deserve to have your leadership position. That's the situation in so many of these companies -- the company's sucking wind, they're firing people, yet the C-level officers are working their comp consultants as hard as ever to get even more options and perqs out of their comp committees.

The Army understands this -- corporate leaders are failing in their fundamental duties as leaders if they fail to set the example and take proper care of the troops. As I've said elsewhere, as far as simple leadership is concerned, corporate America doesn't need another damned Harvard MBA or "Big Five (or is it Four, or Three, now?)" consultant, what they need for leadership is any average US Army squad leader.

Read the series of linked articles I cited above, and consider that info in light of 1) that people are getting laid off, 2) that sometimes the company, screwed up as it often is, attempts to treat the employee as though it's their fault, or at least that the employees absence is now more valuable than their presence, 3) having decided to dump the employee, the company then handles things with such overt cowardice and disrespect to the employee as they often do. See if those articles don't piss you off too.

Money's fine, greed's fine, but where's the leadership? Ok. rant's over, back to work.

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

"So what happened in 2002, as unemployment rose, wages failed to keep up with prices and stocks declined — and stories of corporate malfeasance filled the news? Nothing. O.K., not exactly nothing: some of the huge options grants at the top went away, reducing the average among the top 100. But according to Fortune, which put a pinstripe-clothed pig on its cover, median pay among top executives rose another 14 percent. "

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/02/opinion/02KRUG.html?tntemail0

Heywood Jablomie
Friday, May 02, 2003

I was very annoyed when a friend of mine was laid off about 18 months ago, yet at the same time they saw fit to hire a product management head, no doubt earning double his salary. What was the reason behind that?

Better than being unemployed...
Friday, May 02, 2003

At one company I was at, several people found their Unix accounts locked one friday morning.  A couple of them went to the sysadmin and he blurted out "Damn, that wasn't supposed to happen until next week".  Guess who didn't get much work done next week.

Last company I was at (a shark pit) had layoffs during the morning.  The victims were called to HR, which was the only department on the first floor, told the news, and escorted out.  Their stuff was sent to them later.  We had a company meeting that afternoon, management never said a word about the layoffs.  Got mail from a victim saturday, and monday morning saw his office had been cleaned out.

yeppers, we trusted management at that company after that.

snotnose
Friday, May 02, 2003

snotnose points out one of the most important effects of layoffs:

If management handles layoffs badly, employees will never trust management again.  It can permanently destroy productivity.

I don't recall any snafus in layoffs in my experience, since when I was subject to them, they were handled well.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, May 02, 2003

Heywood -

what you wrote is consistent with the observations made in that series of fortune articles. In addition, fortune articles include an article or two (all cross-linked) that explain specifically what the mechanism for senior exec compensation is. They explain specifically how the system is broken -- basically, it's a positive feedback loop, with no effective mechanism in place to enforce "corrections" (assuming anyone can decide what those ought to be).

There are anonymous interviews with senior folks who've been on the inside of compensation committees and they explain how powerless they've been, when it came right down to it, to get a lid on the CEO compensation growth.

All in all, the series of articles paint a thoroughly disgusting picture. Too bad something can't happen to kick those chicken-shits out of their un-earned ivory towers and have them all mucking stables, cleaning bathrooms, and working in sewers...nah... that'd be too good for them, plus it'd be cruelty to animals to make the actual sewer rats have to put up with such assholes.

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

Sheesh, anonQAguy...a little bitter?

FWIW, the board of directors is supposed to be the CEO's sheath, and they are the ones to whom the CEO is responsible.

Not that it necessarily works like that, but that's how it's *supposed* to work.  I certainly agree that the system has evolved in an unhealthy direction.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, May 02, 2003

Actually its the shareholders that directors are accountable to, whether CEO or not.

But then the shareholders with the power are for the most part financial institutions and represented by people with exactly the same gravy train.  Unless the toilet flush is beckoning they won't screw that system up.

It looks like there's going to be some kind of regulation in the UK of director's compensation when the company is ailing, ie no million pound parachutes for CEO's that lost the company millions or billions of pounds.

Unfortunately, that kind of regulation isn't going to make those people any better at managing organisations.

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 02, 2003

Simon, There was a law passed recently that said all fund manages (the ones with the real power) had to disclose what it is we've been voting for with our 401k's and IRA's all these years... Well, at least in the future.

It may be possible to change the tide of corporate life just by switching funds now... well, one would hope.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, May 02, 2003

"Sheesh, anonQAguy...a little bitter?"

Brent - yeah, I guess. But actually not because I personally have been hurt by these things, really. It just bugs me deeply to see people be cowardly, and especially to see people who've achieved great power abuse it and neglect the duties that attend that power. I remember my times in command/leadership, and I remember I always felt the obligation of duty to my mission and my people much more strongly than I felt any heady greed over "gee, what's in it for me?" In fact I never felt that way -- the duty portion is too solemn a trust. This is the only right way to feel about being 'in charge', and people who don't perceive the gravity of their power and their obligations just aren't wired right in the head.

I've got no heartburn with leaders (actually, most of these civilian executives are simply highly paid managers -- they wouldn't know true leadership if it bit them on the ass. The military distinguishes between leadership and management) making money and benefits by the train-load. I just think they should actually earn it and they should be personally worthy of the respect they're accorded by those under them.

If you're a leader, your first duty is to your mission. If you analyze what that means, you'll almost always see that that means your very next duty is to your people, else you'd never accomplish your mission. Note that except as it impacts the mission, your duty is not to yourself.

It bugs me to see people who don't understand this, and/or don't live it. Obviously, as you can imagine, I stay bugged rather a lot. These threads just happended to hit the button when I was in a mood to spout about it.

This is the last I'll say about it. Nobody really gives a shit, and my talking about it isn't going to change anything, so I'll shut up now. Thanks for the release, though. back to work now.

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

anonQAguy... I can't get your link to work.

Joe AA
Friday, May 02, 2003

Hmm. Joe, just tried it from the forum page and it worked for me.
http://www.fortune.com/fortune/careers/articles/0,15114,367903,00.html
here it is again, watch you are careful about pasting spaces on either end of it.

If all else fails, goto fortune magazine, Careers, and check out that page -- they have a current article "CEO Pay: Have they no shame?" It's got links to a lot of the same articles -- it's been a theme that fortune has apparently been following for some time.

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

anonQAguy,

You know, I am more of an anarchist type of guy than anything else and I am usually rather allergic to military people, but what you've just painted is rather attractive, and I would sincerely hope more people share your (our) point of view about leadership and responsibility coming with power than I currently witness. Thanks for sharing.

jcm
Friday, May 02, 2003

jcm -

"...I am usually rather allergic to military people..."  LOL! Cute. I haven't heard that said quite so delicately before!

Thanks for the comment. Outside the military community, most folks only have what they see in the popular media to go on (generalization, I know), and there are a lot of stereotypes about us that we have to deal with. Not whining, just a fact. It's kind of a closed community, after all, so not surprising most folks don't know how we really are.

In fact, the positions on power, leadership and duty I expressed track very consistently across other ex-military I talk with; I certainly didn't invent anything -- just expressed values common in my former community/profession.

thanks again for the kind thoughts --

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

I asked anonQAguy if he was bitter.  He wrote, "yeah, I guess. But actually not because I personally have been hurt by these things, really."

Could you please explain this, anonQAguy?  You're saying that being personally hurt by these things DIDN'T make you bitter?  Personal experience is *supposed* to be what makes a person bitter.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, May 02, 2003

Sorry Brent - I was unclear. What I meant was that yes, I acknowledge I'm bitter. However, I don't feel that I have really been directly and personally hurt by the corporate behaviors and practices I criticized, so I'm not bitter because of "personal damage" -- as there really isn't any.

I guess the short way to express it is that while I may not have been a victim of these behaviors and their practitioners, they offend my sense of justice and honor. That may sound unrealistically altruistic or somehow goof-ball, perhaps, but it's true.  It pissed me off that these things happen -- they're not supposed to -- and then I get bitter over these things repeating and going unpunished.

The futility and impotence associated with seeing what's wrong and being unable to fix it also adds to the bitterness.

anonQAguy
Friday, May 02, 2003

It doesn't sound idealistic at all, I think we have lost all sense of justice and honor as a society

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, May 02, 2003

anonQAguy: Ah, okay, gotcha.

FWIW, I agree with you, and I don't think you're being unrealistically idealistic.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, May 02, 2003

At one job I had in Saudi you knew you had been fired when you went to pick up your summer holiday air ticket and found that it was only one way!

One year they had no ticket for me, and I had adverts up in all the  local supermarket to sell the car and furniture before I found out that evening it was just because I required authorization to change holiday destination.

The next year I wasn't so lucky. They also sacked a friend of mine, justifiably, for persisitent absenteeism. Then they panicked when they couldn't get a replacement and offered him his job back. He was furious! "How dare they threaten to renew his contract!" They didn't carry out that threat however; as a mutual colleague remarked "Why bother renewing his contract; it won't make any difference. Simon's never in class anyway!"

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 02, 2003

anonQAguy...

Thanks for the new link... that worked fine.  Even though they look the same to me, the first still gives me a page not found.  Weird...

Joe AA
Monday, May 05, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home