Thursday, January 22, 2015

When That Layoff Memo Backfires

One of the most unfortunate parts of the past 7 years or so is that most of us have either been laid off or had a close family member laid off. It's a really tough time for everyone, from the person who gets the axe to the person giving the pink slip to the people who are left behind after a big round of layoffs. And while laying off employees is never a good experience, there are certainly better ways to do it than others.

I've heard of one bank who let employees know that they had been laid off when their keycard didn't work in the morning.

I've heard of small businesses where the owner lets all the employees go without any severance and walks away with a big fat check.

We've all heard of the CEOs who take the nice Golden Parachute and leave their employees struggling to pay their bills.

And then, as New York Magazine wrote in July, there was Microsoft who sent one of those memos that should have never been sent. It starts with "Hello there" and, amazingly, with that ridiculous intro, goes downhill from there.
We plan to right-size our manufacturing operations to align to the new strategy and take advantage of integration opportunities. We expect to focus phone production mainly in Hanoi, with some production to continue in Beijing and Dongguan. We plan to shift other Microsoft manufacturing and repair operations to Manaus and Reynosa respectively, and start a phased exit from Komaron, Hungary.
The emphasis in there is mine but five layoff buzzwords in one paragraph is impressive, especially considering that the rest of the ~14 paragraph e-mail has some other ones dropped in as well. The breakdown of the article itself is great, and, overall, the memo isn't that bad compared to some that have been sent over the past 7 years.

But the point is that memos like this NEVER need to be sent. Why put something like this in writing that can be ridiculed outside the company and provide no comfort for anyone within the company (either laid off or left behind)? I understand there's no efficient way to lay off 18,000 employees (or 12,500 within one business unit), but laying off people through a poorly constructed memo just adds to the pain these people are feeling--and it allows it to be put out there so future applicants think twice before working for you and your organization.

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