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John: In the Can or Canned?

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Termination Tuesday Is A Loser for Everyone

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Or leaping off the can?

Monday’s StarTribune story by Thomas Lee on Termination Tuesdays at Best Buy contained this jewel of a quote by a survivor:

 “Whenever someone leaves their desk, we think that person just got laid off, when he or she might just be going to the bathroom,” said one surviving employee who requested anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak to the news media.

I worked like at a place like that for a time. With astonishing regularity we would be in a meeting, the door would open and the director of sales would pop his head in long enough to say,

“John Smith is no longer with the company.”

Any question (“Where is John Smith?” / “Where did John Smith go?” / “What happened?”) was met with the same phrase repeated:

“John Smith is no longer with the company.”

And sure enough, post-meeting, John Smith’s desk was cleared and his car was gone from the parking lot. In my year and a half with the company, this happened at least a dozen times.

It was unnerving.

I understand the confidentiality issues, but some sort of communication would have been helpful. Of course, among the survivors, there was all sorts of whispered communication, rumors, speculation and “Who’s next?” The regularity of employee disposal caused everyone to freshen their Plans B, C and D. With no explanation, loyalty to the firm was tenuous at best. When I finally left the firm, I asked the director of HR what it was like to fire so many people. She rolled her eyes and said it was the worst thing she ever had to do. There was a whimsy to the job destruction that had nothing to do with industry consolidation.

I’ve seen consolidating industries as well. It’s just as unnerving, though the communication is dour though more straightforward. I started with Honeywell just before the axe started swinging and many thousands lost their jobs—but at least we all saw the axe swinging closer and closer.

Whether job destruction happens through managerial whimsy or industry consolidation, employees walk on thin ice for so long that work, relationships, craft and loyalty all submerge.

Unfortunately, that is the guiding business ethos of the day: employees are another capital expense. And when things get tight, well….

My only plea would be for as much open communication and dialogue in a company as possible. And it doesn’t hurt for employees to continually sharpen their craft as they ask, “What next?”

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Image credit: dotroom via 2headedsnake

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Written by kirkistan

August 7, 2013 at 9:46 am

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