Happy Holidays — You’re Fired

It’s the 1st week of December and already I’ve heard from 3 folks, at different companies, that were notified they were losing their jobs this week. To the best of my knowledge, none of these friends worked at companies in financial trouble — and none of them had any prior or current employee performance problems. I find these incidents disturbing.

When I ran a large company, by policy, we did not “do layoffs or restructuring” between November 1st and January 15th. Period. Forget the math — it sends a bad message to employees about the value of people and its terrible for morale. I heard all kinds of arguments about why the policy was wrong — its not fair to let employees go through the holidays spending on gifts when they’re going to lose their job, or its not fair to managers to make them retain employees (aka zombies) that are going to be eliminated but just don’t know it yet, or you’re penalizing my teams performance vs budget by making us hang onto “dead wood”, and on and on. I remained unpersuaded by these — then and now.

Before yesterday, I usually dismissed these Holiday Terminations as outcomes generated by callous or inexperienced management teams. To some extent I still do — but I wonder if something cultural in American business isn’t also afoot.

Our human interactions have moved in a couple of generations from face-to face time delayed dialogue to electronic moment-to-moment tiny thought transfer. This “impulse” driven communication seems to me to also be causing “impulse” driven terminations. I’ve decided I don’t need you anymore, the thought set off a buzzer in my head, I need to act on it immediately, and the “right” thing to do is react instantly and move on to other things — personal circumstances or Holidays be damned.

This kind of thought process should be devalued in “leaders”.  Every business is a people business — and make no mistake — the employee ‘s that didn’t get fired will quickly know of the Holiday terminations and will think poorly of your leadership and your Corporate values.

In the end this creates an atmosphere of “bad wa” that will cost you a lot more than the few dollars you’ll spend delaying the termination until after the Holidays are over.


PS —- a couple of hours ago the DOL released the November Unemployment numbers.  U-6 of 17% or 26.2 million Americans.  Yet another Happy Holidays shout out.  Count Your Blessings.

UPDATE:  I had no idea that the day before I wrote this post pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis had laid off 1,700 folks via conference call.  Unbelievable moronocity.

About dougcurling

a compassionate capitalist
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2 Responses to Happy Holidays — You’re Fired

  1. The Dude says:

    Leadership and management are much closer to handicapping and art than most people realize.

    As in handicapping, you need real data – hard data – and you have to make tough decisions. You also have to weigh those decisions in areas that are more subjective – as DC points out – the impacts on morale, near term producutivity, the long term impact of good people thinking this isn’t the kind of place I want to work at anymore, etc. This is where the art of taking this subjective input and marrying it with the hard data is required to create effective leadership.

    There are great hard data people. You need them. They are brilliant people that understand subjective value. You need them. Unfortunately, most data people don’t but into subjectivity – and most subjective experts don’t understand the hard data. Great leaders can synthesize both data sets….and for my money, are true artists.

    “An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” Charles Horton Cooley

  2. Your post has some very deep thought provoking concepts. Has the 140 characters or less response and instant gratification of information wormed its way into our daily decision making… Wow, now I am going to be looking for examples of this for a while. Great post DC!

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