THE HAND THAT FEEDS
(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)
I HAVE been needing to say something since the unexpected layoffs occurred in my company yesterday. Shock prevented me from doing so initially. Then came denial. I did not want to even think about the situation let alone write about. Now anger has entered. Now is a good time to say something.
It is frightening to see the hand that feeds become the hand that passes down reduced head counts and slashed budgets. It is disheartening when that hand, which recently offered encouraging quarterly progress statistics palm up, turns and backhands many who facilitated that progress. Now it is hard to trust that upturned palm, especially when it has slipped on the velvet glove of euphemism and vagueness.
HERE IS the thing. This layoff was not enacted because the company is losing lots of money at the moment. The reason for the layoffs is that senior management has an “aggressive” business plan for 2003. This includes increasing new business by 20% and maintaining 80% of the current business. In order for this to happen there needs to be more people on the “front lines” bringing in that business. However, budgets are being cut, expenses are being kept to a minimum. So, the number of jobs in less crucial areas will have to be reduced.
One can argue that this makes perfect business sense. It does. The company is here to make money. That is what it is all about. The goal is profit. The goal is an enlarged customer base. The goal is higher stock prices. On paper it looks good. Just wait until the year-end results meetings. This is going to look great in a PowerPoint presentation!
Yet, it all felt so clinical. The number to be cut was decided upon. The people were selected on certain criteria. They were informed quickly. It was all said and done by lunchtime. There was no consideration of personal issues for these people. It did not matter that some cried and some left in a rage, some slipped out quietly and some stayed steady through the day. The hand used the scalpel to perform a corporate facelift.
ONE of the most unnerving things was the way this was explained to those of us who still have jobs. It was not a layoff. It was a “staff action.” We are now in the “post staff action phase.” These people did not lose their jobs. They were “reduced.” The “resources were reallocated.” Most of the questions raised by the remaining employees were answered in vague ways with all of these euphemistically nauseating terms. The impression conveyed was that there are no guarantees, no one is really secure, and there could be a possibility that this could happen again. But of course this was not directly stated.
I think this is the issue that angers me the most. These people were not “reduced.” They were eliminated. There is a difference. People were not “reallocated.” Company resources in the form of dollars were reallocated. These are dollars that these people will no longer receive.
GIVEN the present conditions of our society, this is the wrong time to be told that you no longer have a job not because the company is losing money but because it wants to aggressively make more. Things are uncertain as the talk of war with Iraq drones on and on. Will it happen? Will there be more terrorist attacks in our own land? Will bombs start exploding on our buses like they do in Israel? Will we be able to put our children through college? Will some of our children spend the last moments of their lives bleeding on the sands of a Middle Eastern desert? Will anthrax strike at our post offices and snipers at our malls? Will North Korea start firing off missiles? If push comes to shove will we lose some of our allies? I just bought the last of the duct tape and plastic sheeting from the Home Depot. What do you mean I don’t have a job?
There truly are no guarantees in life. Things are always changing. There are ups and downs, twists and turns and spirals. How we try to make our own paradise here and now. We have been banned from Eden. Yet, it is in our hearts to maintain that paradise. However, it will not work. Paradise is lost. This is the day of thorns and toil, sweat and frustration.
It is a frustrating experience to watch adverse situations come upon those that you care about when know that you are powerless to change things for them. What a heart-wrenching thing it is to be willing to take their place but not capable of doing so. It is sad to think that some who may have become your very best friends are suddenly removed from your daily life. No one wants to see tears from a friend’s eyes. No one wants to see people have their hopes smashed.
I DISAGREE with this corporate action. My heart would not let me make such a decision. I think it is highly impersonal and poorly timed. If I were the CEO I would have came up with a different plan.
But I am not the CEO. And maybe I shouldn’t “bite the hand the feeds me.” Maybe. I’m not actually biting, just growling a bit.